Get used to hearing it. And quite frankly, the Wolfpackers deserve to say it. A 12-1 regular season is a near lock with 13-0 a very good possibility. Remember the way Carolina fans howled after 10-2 and 11-1? It'll be worse.
So what do you do after losing to your in-state rival? How do you manage after losing a game with huge implications on the rest of your season and surely, the recruiting season?
You tip your hat to the winner and move on. If you mope and moan, you'll find yourself run over a couple more times, frittering away the last half of a season that will certainly effect the direction of the program for years to come. If you dust off, wipe your brow and come back swinging, losing to a highly ranked team becomes a stepping stone in the process of rebuilding this season and the future.
So what happened last Saturday?
Well, for one, I'm surprised the Pack's Philip Rivers threw 26 passes in the game. Going in, I expected to see TA left, TA right, TA up the gut, over and over again. Carolina hasn't stopped anyone this year and while Saturday's first half was as good as the defense has played thus far in 2002, State's offense had as much to do with the UNC performance. Once State moved away from its fetish for trickery and coach Chuck Amato threatened trouble if the Pack threw the ball in the second half, the light blue defense turned to dust amidst the pounding from TA McClendon and Josh Brown.
Doug Justice's failed romp for two points (Note to Doug: Michael Waddell – 4.25 forty. You – 4.8 forty, maybe. Toss the ball to the Rabbit next time so an opposing offensive lineman doesn't run you down from behind) and the "Fumble" changed the complexion of the game. But neither play changed the outcome as the Pack was simply not going to be denied it's second straight win in Kenan Stadium.
The Heels must regroup. They've lost the intrastate rivalry game, they must not lose the interstate rivalry game. The 20-year spell of failing in Charlottesville, Va. must be broken Saturday. If Carolina falls again in Scott Stadium and slips to 2-5 on the season, oh boy. Judging from the comments I heard from the Carolina faithful after Saturday's game, things could get messy.
As hard as it is to believe, Carolina basketball practice is in full swing. After a season that would seemingly never end, the offseason flew by. Recruiting kept everyone's interest as Matt Doherty and staff worked from coast to coast looking for the next Tar Heel stars and succeeded in landing Reyshawn Terry ('03) and JamesOn Curry ('04) from right here in North Carolina. A near miss with David Padgett and the pending decision of Brian Butch have the faithful on edge as the list of prime big men targets shortens.
As interesting as recruiting can be, it's time to turn our attention to the guys that will actually wear the Carolina Blue uniforms this season.
"Midnight with the Heels" provided an early look at the Tar Heels and if anything, Carolina games should be much more entertaining to watch than last season's painful exercises in futility. As I've written in this space in the past, games last season were tough to stomach because no matter what happened, you knew what the outcome would be in the end.
So as practice for the 2002-2003 season begins, it should be interesting to see how the new blood meshes with the sophomores, seniors and, most importantly, the coaching staff. This year's level of success depends on how those relationships pan out.
Have a comment? You can email Tommy Ashley at firstname.lastname@example.org.