Gameday: UNC vs. NC State

North Carolina (2-3, 1-2 ACC) and No. 25 N.C. State (3-1, 2-0) are all set to do battle Saturday at 6:05 p.m.. Stay tuned to <i>Inside Carolina</i> for a full postgame report from Kenan Stadium ...<br><br><b> <center>(<a target=new href=>Live Stats</a> ... <a href=>In-Game Chat</a>)</b></center><br>

  • Saturday's recruiting implications
  • Andy: The last 10
  • Wed. practice news & notes
  • Meet the Wolfpack
  • Chuck Amato press conference quotes
  • N.C. State player quotes
  • McGill questionable
  • UNC press conference audio
  • UNC depth chart
  • Buck: Between the lines

    It's been hyped all week at water coolers, on sports talk radio and via the media, now its time to get it on.

    Implications couldn't be bigger for both teams at this point of the season. While the win and the loss received will only count once, they could set a major tone for their respective beneficiaries. State can't afford to look past the Tar Heels, with a trip to Maryland and a meeting with Miami on its immediate horizon.

    For UNC, desperately in need of a win with an equal or worse slate of opponents licking their chops, a win over the Wolfpack could mean another vote of confidence for the program and a shot at more wins.

    John Bunting believes his team has improved considerably since losing 34-0 to Louisville two weeks ago.

    "I'm extremely proud of the way this team has bounced back each week," Bunting said. "We're young on defense, and those kids are getting better. There are signs of life every single week."

    Those signs of life may wind up on life support with a poor showing on Saturday, at least in the eyes of the fans, many of whom are on their last nerve. While there were visible defensive improvements in UNC's win over Georgia Tech and more noticeable on both sides of the ball at Florida State, scattered in between are less than aesthetic performances against William & Mary, Virginia and Louisville.

    Carolina is giving up 456.2 yards per game, and for the most part, the average has been extremely close to the mean.

    Two important things have to happen for the Tar Heels' defense to keep its offense in the game: It must be opportunistic and keep State off the board early, because the Wolfpack's defense could make the going particularly tough for the Darian Durant-led offense.

    In the last 12 meetings between the two schools, the team that rushed for more yards won the game. Carolina must be able to run the ball effectively against a team that is allowing just 92.2 yards per game passing.

    "We've got experience in the secondary and experience at linebacker, but up front is where it counts," N.C. State coach Chuck Amato said. "We've got to become more consistently consistent.

    "The best defensive statistic to me is scoring defense. It's very hard to win a championship without great defense."

    In the 1999 meeting, UNC defeated State 10-6 in a game that may have ultimately sealed the fate of Mike O'Cain. Amato was hired a month later and O'Cain, who was 0-7 lifetime against the Tar Heels, joined his counterpart Carl Torbush's staff at UNC the following year.

    A similar subplot may loom over Bunting, who has struggled to turn around a program that has beaten the Pack just once since then.

    In fact, it was missed recruiting opportunities following the Tar Heels' 2001 Peach Bowl championship season that Bunting said led to a delay in the turning of the corner for UNC football.

    "That was a critical year, and we didn't just do a good enough job," he said. "That's when we overhauled this whole recruiting system here, and since that time we've been doing a pretty good job."

    But how long will it take? Bunting could buy himself some time with a win this week, or else he'll feel things get hotter beneath him while the climate around him grows colder.

  • The game will be televised live by WTVD-11 in Durham and available free of charge on Time Warner Cable's digital channel 213, and via tape delay on its regular station at midnight.

  • State is the fourth ranked team the Tar Heels have faced this season, and the fifth in a string of eight against teams that went to a bowl last season.

  • Jarwarski Pollock has caught a pass in each of the 28 games he has played in at Carolina, and leads UNC this season with 17 catches.

  • Fred Sparkman is ranked second in the ACC in tackles with 10.2 per game.

  • UNC is 32-16-2 against N.C. State in Chapel Hill, which includes a 25-15-1 record at Kenan Stadium. However, the Tar Heels have not won there since a 56-20 victory in 1996. The annual match-up was held in Charlotte in 1998 and 1999, with Carolina winning both.

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