IC's Game Week Coverage Recap
Even through four games against some of Division I's toughest competition, North Carolina has taken its football program up a notch. So are the Tar Heels just an upset of the Cardinals on Saturday from seriously broaching the Top 25?
While it may be too early to tell, UNC entered practice this week ultimately confident in its defense, relatively healthy on offense – positively jolted by the expected return of junior tailback Ronnie McGill, and buoyed by the special teams' play and the emergence of return specialist Brandon Tate.
"There's no doubt about it, [Louisville] is a talented football team," Bunting said during his weekly radio show on Thursday. "They've got a lot of pieces of the puzzle. They've got a fine offensive line. They've got a very dangerous defense.
"It was a little different this week working with them against this offense; they've got an offense kind of like State's."
Carolina resuscitated its '04 fortunes with an October win over Miami, then a solid showing versus Virginia Tech and subsequent "take care of business" triumphs over Wake Forest and Duke to end the regular season.
But the Tar Heels' resurgence started earlier this year.
"To win two games in a row in this business is an accomplishment in itself," Bunting said. "I've always believed if we can win a couple or three in a row, you can gain some real genuine confidence to last the rest of the season. That's what I've always believed, and that's why I thought it was important for us to [beat Utah], and let's see what we do with it."
Bunting has yet to demonstrate he can engineer a quick start to a season -- under the fifth-year coach, UNC is 7-14 in the months of August and September. Yet, he has proven to be a mastermind mechanic, able to circle the wagons, take some of the most damaged machinery and get it ready for action in a pinch. Under Bunting, the Tar Heels have proven their resilience and dedication, and have never given up.
And now, this team and coaching staff that has battled off the ropes for years, has finally emerged out of the depths of defensive ridicule – and with a bullet. The Tar Heels' rushing defense is ranked 39th nationally, allowing just 117.0 yards on the ground per game.