Nope. The place was Kenan Stadium last Saturday night with the Heels facing the mighty Longhorns of Texas. And the atmosphere that night is what Carolina football should be all about. Despite those fans that chose to not show up Saturday night because of potential of heavy rain (lesson one – do not listen to weathermen) and those that inexplicably left at halftime, this game proved that a rocking Kenan Stadium is not a fanciful dream, but a scene that can happen regularly as long as the fans just show up.
Coach John Bunting's team fought valiantly against a team with the most top to bottom talent that I've seen grace the Kenan Stadium field in my lifetime. That includes Oklahoma in the late eighties and Charlie Ward's Florida State teams in the 1990's. Texas, under the recruiting of master salesman Mack Brown, simply overwhelmed the Tar Heels with speed and size not seen on too many college football teams. Other than possibly the Miami Hurricanes, no college team comes close.
In the weeks prior to the game, the feelings ran the gamut from "oh no the Heels are going to get buried" in the preseason to "play a good game and force mistakes and there's a chance" late last week. After arriving in Kenan, after fighting ridiculous traffic on I-40 (a 45 minute drive took nearly three hours!), those feelings once again turned sour upon seeing the Longhorns warm up. I've not seen a team with as much size and speed at every position. When a 6-foot-4 receiver looks small next to his teammates, you know there's going to be trouble.
The grief and the criticism that Ronald Curry endured in his time at Carolina pales in comparison to that which Chris Simms has endured at Texas. The performance he put on against the Heels was certainly indicative of how great this kid can be. His touchdown dart to Chad Stevens that sliced through three Tar Heel defenders and his ability to avoid the rush and make the accurate throw perfectly frame his growth as a quarterback.
In my opinion, linebacker Derrick Johnson and wide receiver Roy Williams are the best players at their position to play in Kenan in years. Johnson's run down of Jawarski Pollock and his across the field sprint to tackle Chesley Borders were simply out of this world. And to think, Johnson is only a true sophomore! If the Carolina defense had one player of his ilk…oh well, wishful thinking at this point.
Williams made a very good corner, Michael Waddell, look average at best. How many guys have walked away from the Rabbit on the way to the endzone?
The entire game was a testament that all great corners owe at least half of their success to the guys in the trenches. And right now, Carolina's front seven is struggling. Handling a back like Cedric Benson or a line like Texas' is not an every game occurrence but given the performance of the front seven thus far in the season, ACC offensive coordinators must be salivating at the chances they'll have while facing the Heels.
In the aftermath of the loss, much credit has been given to the Heels for not giving up after falling behind 24-0. The coaching staff and players simply refused to give in in the face of the vaunted Orange Crush. I said last week that if Carolina could move the ball against the Texas defense, other ACC teams had better take notice. On the legs of Darian Durant and Jacque Lewis, and the hands and feet of Sam Aiken, the Heels did just that against the ‘Horns and they'll have to keep it up or the season could get ugly.
So Bunting and staff have two weeks to prepare for the rest of the season. First up is Georgia Tech, a team with a four game winning streak against the Heels. With a 1-2 record going it, this game is the first of many "must win" games remaining on the schedule. Bunting hasn't ruled out the possibility of position changes and possible redshirt decisions so the next two weeks, even without an open date, should be very interesting and have a major bearing on the rest of the season.
What will happen? Stay tuned….
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