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* It's been nearly two decades since Notre Dame fielded a squad that rivals what many of us grew accustomed to in our youth, but the tradition and legacy of the program still exists. The 22nd-ranked Tar Heels and Fighting Irish are meeting for the 18th time on Saturday afternoon under the national spotlight, although this is the first time that UNC has been ranked and Notre Dame has not in the series.
"It's obviously exciting," head coach Butch Davis said on Wednesday afternoon. "Notre Dame brings a tremendous amount of mystique and the prestige of the program and the history and the tradition. It's rare. I would like to think that maybe we could schedule another home-and-home with Notre Dame, where you don't play them every year, but maybe over a 10-year period of time, you get to play them twice… It's a cool thing, certainly for this area."
* Speaking of lights, UNC technicians had the northeast bank of lights shining brightly on Wednesday afternoon, possibly serving its penance for cutting off twice during Saturday's primetime game against Connecticut. A failed breaker caused a 22-minute delay in the action, forcing ESPN to turn to alternate programming to fill the void.
Davis has been outspoken since he arrived in Chapel Hill about the need for Kenan Stadium upgrades, drawing criticism from some segments of the fan base. But now, the second-year head coach has evidence to back up his suggestions.
"It's not like we're crying wolf," he said.
When asked about the various issues plaguing the stadium, Davis took full advantage of the opportunity to promote the expansion project.
"It is personal living proof that we need stadium expansion and renovation," Davis said. "We get validation every single game. Something happens, between the scoreboards and the elevators and the stadium deal falling off, and the deal with the lights. If anybody needs to know why we're trying to fix it, all you've got to do is show up on Saturday."
During the season-opener against McNeese State, the problems arrived in abundance – a lightning strike ignited a small fire to the P.A. sytem, a piece of concrete fell into the stands, a visiting reporter was stranded in a press elevator for nearly two hours and the game ball was delivered to Duke's Wallace Wade Stadium.
When asked if he had to call or send text messages to any particular people – insert donors here – Davis replied, "Didn't have to – they all had front row seats."
* Davis provided some insight into how the coaching staff grades the game film every Sunday morning.
"Every player gets a multitude of grades on each particular play," Davis said. "He gets certainly his alignment and his assignment [grades] – does he understand really what the play call stood for? Then he gets an execution grade, and he also gets an effort grade.
"So you could be 100 percent right on your alignment, the assignment and your execution part of it, but you still have to finish the play. You've got to run, chase, pursue, re-trace, pressure the quarterback [and] make a pass rush move. So they're getting effort grades as well."
Davis added that the team is finally getting to the point where the effort grade is not an issue, as the players monitor themselves effectively. There is no better example of that development than watching 6-foot-3, 300-pound Marvin Austin make a shoe-string interception and lumber 27 yards for the first touchdown of his career on Saturday night.
* Darrius Massenburg entered the 2008 season penciled in as the starter at defensive end, but the red-shirt sophomore had exploratory arthroscopic knee surgery on Sept. 8 that revealed no structural damage from an injury that occurred in the McNeese State opener. The 6-foot-4, 300-pounder missed three games before returning to action on Saturday night – at defensive tackle.
Why the transition to the middle of the line?
"The three young freshmen kids (Quinton Coples, Robert Quinn and Michael McAdoo) had developed to the point that they had gotten enough experience that we felt like we could utilize his speed and quickness inside as a defensive tackle," Davis said.
North Carolina played six defensive tackles against Connecticut.
"Tackles take a huge beating during the course of a game," Davis said. "They're getting double-teamed, they're getting chopped, they're getting hit in the mouth all of the time. And if you're going to play somewhere between 65-75 snaps on defense every game, if each one of those kids can play 35 to 40 and take periods of time where they're out for six or seven plays, then they're fresher late in the second quarter and late in fourth quarter, when a lot of times games are won or lost."
* Davis had indicated following the Miami victory that red-shirt freshman Mike Paulus would see some action against the Huskies on Saturday night, but that playing time never materialized. According to the second-year head coach, Paulus could take the field this weekend "if the opportunity presents itself."
But there's no doubt that Cam Sexton remains the primary option at quarterback for the Tar Heels.
"Certainly Cam's success at Miami, coupled with the fact of how he managed the game this weekend and everything, I think the continuity right now – we're probably going to stay in that situation," Davis said.
Paulus has been receiving nearly 40 percent of the snaps in practice, which is a higher amount than typically provided for the backup quarterback. The normal ratio is 75 to 25.
* With Shaun Draughn's 109-yard rushing performance against a top-25 team in Connecticut last Saturday, it's logical to assume that the red-shirt sophomore will see the bulk of the action against Notre Dame. But when asked if Draughn would get the start this weekend, Davis replied, "We haven't decided yet."