Mike: Four Quarters in the Desert

There are great biblical illustrations about wandering into the desert aimlessly and coming out with a new sense of self and purpose. Let's hope the same holds true for Carolina this weekend as they travel into the desert looking for answers about themselves and about the season.

While there's an easy argument to be made that this week's game at Arizona State is not a "big" one from the national perspective, it does represent another crossroads of sorts for this year's team. Through the Georgia Tech game, John Bunting has still not taken the Heels to battle a single time where it did not at least look like Carolina had a chance at some point (excluding the very beginning) of the game. This fact speaks volumes about the mindset and preparation coming out of the think tank (not to be confused with the fish tank) in the Kenan Football Center.

Like last year, Bunting seems to be asking for a particular unit of the team to step up and make some plays. In the FSU game last year, Sam Aiken led the charge from a receiving unit, that had drawn the coach's ire, by making two courageous catch-and-run plays to help the Heels take a 7-0 lead on the Seminoles. This year, it would seem that Bunting is asking the entire defense, but the secondary in particular, to step up and make the plays they are capable of making.

Further illustrating this point is the well documented benching of Michael Waddell in the second half of the Tech game. One may make the assumption that a challenge has been issued to this unit, and Waddell specifically, to make a difference when the Heels take on the Sun Devils.

If there is to be a turnaround this season resulting in a .500 record and a bowl game, it will have to start late Saturday night (by our clocks) in Tempe, Ariz. To hear some fans talking on message boards, the Heels would be better off just playing underclassmen from here on out and just selling the home game on Oct. 5 back to N.C. State. It is unlikely, though, that Bunting and his charges have given up on the season just yet, and if they can achieve a breakthrough on the mental errors that have plagued them, opportunities to win will abound.

Nowadays, it's rare that Carolina's football or basketball teams will play an important game without the cameras of at least one network taking an interest. A national interest of Tar Heel exploits exists in that plenty of folks around the region and nation live to see them win, and probably just as many or more love to see the Heels lose.

But, for loyal Heels like the ones who frequent this website, the only means available to catch this game will involve staying up late and listening to the radio or internet feed from Woody and Mick. I suggest lots of caffeine and an optimistic attitude this trip to the desert might just be exactly how the ship gets righted and I hope we're all listening when it happens.

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