While Head Coach John Bunting remains even-keeled this week after the first victory of the season, the players seem more up-beat. "I know, at least for me and the defense, we got a lot of confidence from that win…" defensive tackle Chase Page said. "It gives you a sense of purpose. You are eager to do everything. I'm eager to go to practice, I was eager to watch the film. When you lose, it's like 'Ah, man.' It's a confidence-builder and it makes things easier around here for everybody."
"[The atmosphere around the team] is night-and-day," offensive guard Jeb Terry said. "We try to have a lot of enthusiasm no matter the outcome the week before, but you can tell when it's real and when it's an effort to put it out there. There are people who are really enthusiastic today who wanted to go out there and get better, practiced with more confidence, and just felt better about themselves. A win always makes you feel better."
Bunting was whisked away so quickly after UNC's victory over East Carolina on Saturday evening by a Greenville TV station that he missed the immediate celebration. "But I hear our players were dancing with the band and were inside the locker room singing the fight song," he said.
The first football win of the season has been so long in coming that UNC's Bunting forgot about the team "victory dinner" of steak and lobster that is to follow each Sunday afternoon. "I think I caught my wife sneaking an extra one down her pants," Bunting said, "an extra lobster that is."
Freshman linebacker Fred Sparkman's diminished playing time against ECU wasn't a calculated move. It was simply due to situational personnel groupings. "He'll get on the football field this week and get substantial playing time," Bunting said. "I want to get him 20-25 reps per game if I can."
Jeff Longhany has been moved over to the "Sam" linebacker position and will split time with freshman Melik Brown.
UNC's best defensive lineman, Chase Page, almost wasn't able to take the field for the game against ECU due to an injury in pre-game warm-up. "He really showed me what's in his heart and brain," Bunting said.
"Jupiter Wilson told me that he slung Jonas [Seawright] down on the ground and I was getting off my block," Page said. "We are taught to let the running back run in pre-game. I was standing there, and he fell into the side of my knee… I felt something pop, and I was really scared, but it turned out that it wasn't as bad as I thought it was. It was an MCL strain."
Page is admittedly superstitious. Included on his list of superstitions are sitting with the same players at the pre-game meal, loosening up in the hot tub at the hotel before the game, eating the same thing, wearing the same article of clothing. The latest addition to the list is a Thursday night of buffalo wings at the house of defensive tackle Jermicus Banks prepared by former UNC basketball player and current girlfriend of Banks, Jennifer Thomas. "We're definitely going to do that again," Page said. "Everybody brought some stuff. It was the whole defensive line, except for one or two players."
After the finish of Spring Football 2003, Chad Scott was UNC's #1 tailback, but injuries during the summer and in pre-season training camp prevented him from starting in the fall. Since that time, a deep rotation at tailback, along with a little anxiousness on his part has prevented consistency. "I'm 100 percent healthy now," Scott said. "I've been showing the coaches what I could do since I've been here. It was just a matter of me showing what I could do in a game situation. Them giving me the opportunity on Saturday was a great feeling, and I took advantage of it."
Inconsistency earlier in the season, Scott characterized as missed opportunities. "I was kind of over-excited or over-anxious since we were rotating a whole lot and I was not going in the game too much. I was over-anxious trying to make something happen."
Scott, running backs coach Andre' Powell, and offensive lineman Jeb Terry all agree that better chemistry between the line and the running backs was the key factor in UNC's rushing performance on Saturday against ECU.
Terry and Michael Waddell got to paint team trainer Dan Hooker's eye brows blue this week as pay-off on a friendly challenge on the ECU game. There's no word on what Waddell would have had to do had the Tar Heels lost this week.
For the second week in a row, freshman linebacker Larry Edwards has led the team in tackles (12 vs. UVa., 10 at ECU). Following the loss to Virginia, Bunting admitted that he wished he'd played Edwards at linebacker earlier and more often. Following the victory over ECU, he had the following to say of his linebacker: "I can feel two eye balls drilling holes in the back of my head right now because my wife is sitting behind me. She would have liked to see me play Larry Edwards a lot sooner. We knew, when we recruited him that he has tremendous quickness, instincts, and he loves to play. He's going to get better and better the more he plays."
With the season half-over, the situation at running back isn't much clearer, if any, than it was in the pre-season. "I wish it were, but it's not," Powell said of the situation. "Jacque and Chad are small men, and they take a pounding. I don't know if they can carry the ball 30 times per game and survive. They get beat up a lot. I think Ronnie has the mass that I really like, and the power, so it's really not any clearer."