Bunting is 'Always Positive'

CHAPEL HILL, NC -- There hasn't been a whole lot for UNC football fans to be happy about this season. Many of the records set by the 2002 Tar Heel football team will live in dubious fashion.

The team started off the season by tying a 46-year old ACC record of nine turnovers in a 27-21 loss to Miami (OH). Three games later, the defense gave up a UNC record of 657 yards of total offense in a 38-35 victory on the road against Arizona State. At the current pace of 520 yards/game, this defense will fall less than 350 yards short of the ACC record of 6,083 in a single season. And, from the looks of things, this could be the year that Duke ends Carolina's 11-year winning streak over the Blue Devils.

That hasn't stopped head coach John Bunting from approaching every game as a new opportunity. Week after week he answers the questions posed to him about the team's shortcomings. Week after week, he has maintained a positive outlook. This week he brought with him to his weekly press conference a little reminder of that--a royal blue hat given to him in his second year as a St. Louis Rams assisant coach with the words "Always Positive" embroidered on the front. He came across it the other night because he was looking for a hat to cover his head as he ventured out into the rain.

"It kind of just reminded me of what I'm all about," Bunting said. "That's the way I've always been as a player and as a coach, including winning times and loosing times. It's the wrong color of blue, so I don't wear it very much.

"Despite the results, meaning the record and the way this season has gone, there are still positive things that are happening in this football program. There are some players that are having phenomenal years, including Sam Aiken, breaking the school record last week in receptions, close to breaking the school record in yardage for a season. Dexter Reid breaking all the records in terms of tackles, Dan Orner last week kicking another huge field goal, 49-yarder, guy has had a phenomenal season, wish we had more kicks for him. Some of the things that are happening in our program in both academics and also in recruiting, those are all very, very positive. Some of the young, young players getting valuable playing time, all very, very positive and more will get those opportunities this week."

Bunting stated prior to the season that this might be one of his most trying campaigns as a head coach due to all the losses in personnel, holes in recruiting, and inexperience. Season-ending injuries to players Robert Harris (LB), Eric Davis (DT) Will Chapman (DE), and Darian Durant (QB) have compounded the problem. A few times he has admitted that it has been more difficult than even he thought originally, but he doesn't let it show.

"He's been positive for the most part," red-shirt freshman defensive end Tommy Davis said, "and it's been really hard sometimes to be positive, the way we play. I know sometimes he's been frustrated, and I don't blame him. It's really hard on him being the Carolina [guy] he is... I don't know what goes on upstairs. I just know what goes on, on the field. He's always been positive on the field and the meeting rooms."

"[The mistakes] are all our fault," Davis added. "It's not the coaches' fault. They come in with a strong game plan. We just don't execute it like they draw it up. People make mental mistakes on the field--cover the wrong man, miss their assignment, or miss their block."

This week he's talking about how excited he is to have the opportunity to go to Tallahassee and play a Florida State team that probably has revenge on their minds after the Tar Heels' 41-9 victory in Kenan Stadium las year. Bunting is not writing off the season, but he's also not neglecting to get excited about the good things now and prepare for the good things in the future.

"I'm not looking forward past this week," Bunting said, "but, at the same time, there are positives that I have to feel good about within our program. And I don't mind talking about them."

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