"There is definitely a swagger to us," linebacker Jeff Longhany said.
The increased confidence the victory has instilled in the Tar Heels is something they can use right away, beginning Saturday versus No. 18 Virginia Tech.
But coach John Bunting, perhaps wary against a letdown, is not ready to say the corner has been turned on the program's outlook.
"You need to win more than one big ballgame to build confidence," Bunting said. "Every game is a big game, and that was a big one.
"The only way to get real confidence is to practice well and have it carry over to a game and have success two or three games in a row," he said. "That's what we've been struggling and striving to do. How we practice and prepare…that will be the name of the game for me this week."
Following 1-3 Carolina's 41-9 upset of sixth-ranked Florida State in 2001, the Tar Heels then rolled into Raleigh and knocked off NC State, 17-9, holding the Philip Rivers-led Wolfpack offense to under double figures for the first time in his career. UNC finished 8-5 and Peach Bowl champs after being left for dead.
Senior Darian Durant, a redshirt freshman quarterback that had begun platooning with struggling senior Ronald Curry that year, said he sees a resemblance in this year's team.
"Now we've seen we can beat a Top 5 team; if we can play with those guys, we can play with anybody," Durant said. "Hopefully we'll have the same confidence we had when we went out there against Miami. The second we let up, someone will jump on us. Everybody knows that we can be pretty good, and we're practicing like it."
"It makes everything better," added Longhany. "Our communication has picked up, our intensity has picked up. Jonas Seawright has taken the lead on the defensive line; he's a madman out there. Everybody is just working as one."
As they have been most of the season, the Tar Heels are giving up the least yardage on penalties in the ACC – 35.1 yards per game. And while their turnover margin is currently minus-4, that's a tremendous improvement over the minus-15 mark they finished with in 2003.
"We're at the top of the charts in the ACC in terms of penalties, and that's good," Bunting said. "That helps us. We need that advantage. We're not killing ourselves."
With all the negatives that Carolina has endured this season, its team has been frequently described as disciplined and mature.
"Our offense is very mature," Bunting said. "But, our defense is not that way, and that's why we break down sometimes. Maybe we're getting a little bit better, we'll see."
"Larry is playing a new position, and we had struggled to get him to play his old position," Bunting said. "When we finally got him ready to play the WILL position against N.C. State, he played pretty doggone good. Now, he's got to do a lot more things as far as base runs and base passes are concerned; and that's too much. We're still trying to groom him and get him ready."
Ronnie McGill was a ‘full go' in practice on Wednesday, but Bunting stopped short of assessing his availability for this week's contest.
"He looked like he's missed about seven weeks," Bunting said.
The coaching staff will meet on Friday to discuss McGill's possible contribution against the Hokies.
Terry Hunter and Kenny Price missed practice on Tuesday, but are expected to be available by Saturday; as is Khalif Mitchell, who practiced on Wednesday. Hilee Taylor is not expected to practice this week, Bunting said.