Game Day: UNC vs. Virginia

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina and Virginia will extend the South's oldest rivalry to 112 games at Kenan Stadium on Saturday at noon in the Tar Heels' first ACC contest (R/LF).

Virginia (1-1, 1-0) has won 14 of the last 19 games, but North Carolina (1-1, 0-0) has won five of the last seven in Chapel Hill.

These two programs last met in a 23-0 UVa victory in Charlottesville on Oct.19 last fall, which marked the beginning of the end for former head coach John Bunting – three days later he was informed that he would be relieved of his duties at the end of this season.

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But that's ancient history to new head coach Butch Davis.

"I don't even know what happened last year," Davis said. "I don't even know what the score was."

Davis is more concerned with the present, which provides his young Tar Heel squad an opportunity to draw first blood in the 2007 ACC schedule. A victory would give North Carolina a 1-0 start in conference play for the first time since 2000.

"Whenever you get in ACC play it just adds that extra bonus or an extra feeling that you have to win," junior linebacker Mark Paschal said. "Our goal here is to win an ACC Championship and you have to take care of the first ACC game. We would have loved to have last week, but last week is done and this week is Virginia."

This game will showcase two offenses that entered the season with huge question marks. The Tar Heels have answered their critics through two games, led by red-shirt freshman T.J. Yates.

North Carolina is averaging 34 points and 375 yards per game. Wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate have combined for 390 yards and six touchdowns on 19 receptions.

The Cavs, on the other hand, have gone in the opposite direction. UVa finished last season averaging only 257 yards per game, but have dropped that statistic down to 212 ypg in contests against Wyoming and Duke.

Virginia head coach Al Groh would like to have more game film to attempt to figure out UNC offensive coordinator John Shoop's playbook.

"We have been waiting for these two games to take a look at; we'd like to have a little bit more book on them," Groh said. "Obviously they have six years worth of games to look at on us. We have two games to look at on them. The advantage in terms of research clearly falls in their court, so we have tried to offset that by going back into the archives as much as we can...

"I think it's the most explosive offensive team and overall the most challenging team that we've played from North Carolina in the last five or six years."

Saturday's game signifies just another challenge for a young and inexperienced North Carolina program that is slowly, but surely, building a solid foundation that will pay dividends in the years to come.

"I've got to be honest – this whole football team has been a revelation to me," Davis said. "It really is. You watch them in practice and go through the spring – that sometimes doesn't tell you everything. You don't really know about your football team until you go through trials and tribulations, [and] until you go through challenges, [both] good times and bad times."

Virginia represents the Tar Heels' first chance to make some noise in the ACC, and that added pressure has the North Carolina players focused and ready for play on Saturday afternoon.

"We want to be conference champs, so obviously this is a big game for us," red-shirt freshman safety Deunta Williams said. "It's a little bit added motivation… It's a game that we can win, and if we go out there and play hard, I think we have a great chance of winning."

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