How the Tar Heels fared in 2002: (3-9 overall, 1-7 ACC)
North Carolina 30, Syracuse 22
Texas 52, North Carolina 21
Georgia Tech 21, North Carolina 13
North Carolina 38, Arizona State 35
North Carolina State 34, North Carolina 17
Virginia 37, North Carolina 27
Wake Forest 31, North Carolina 0
Maryland 59, North Carolina 7
Clemson 42, North Carolina 12
Florida State 40, North Carolina 14
North Carolina 23, Duke 21
Aug. 30 v. Florida State
Sept. 6 v. Syracuse
Sept. 20 at Wisconsin
Sept. 27 at North Carolina State
Oct. 4 v. Virginia
Oct. 11 at East Carolina
Oct. 18 v. Arizona State
Oct. 25 at Clemson
Nov. 1 at Maryland
Nov. 8 v. Wake Forest
Nov. 15 at Georgia Tech
Nov. 22 v. Duke
Starters returning: 20—8 offense, 8 defense, both kickers, both returners
Coach John Bunting: In his third season at UNC (11-14), and seventh season as a head coach (UNC, Glassboro State, Rowan (formerly Glassboro State)) Bunting is 49-28-2.
Versus Wisconsin: This season's contest will be the first meeting between the Badgers and Tar Heels.
Tar Heels 2002 in brief:
Only a last-second, 47-yard field goal from Dan Orner, giving the Tar Heels a two-point victory over lowly-Duke in the season's final game, kept UNC from a winless ACC campaign last season. In fact, the young Heels claimed their three victories by the slimmest of margins—only 13 points. Quarterback Darian Durant led the ACC in total offense, but UNC's running game was anemic at its best (3.0 yards per carry) and the defense was awful (452.4 yards allowed per game).
On the bright side, their was Durant, a truly special player who led an ascendant conference in total offense in his sophomore campaign despite missing four games with a broken thumb. Durant has started just 12 games in two seasons after splitting time with Ronald Curry as a freshman. Still, Durant has amassed 3,966 passing yards (4th in school history) and 4,255 yards of total offense (6th). Durant and senior C.J. Stephens (who started when Durant was injured) led the Heels to a school record 266.6 yards passing per game last season.
Receiver Sam Aiken had 68 receptions for 990 yards and four touchdowns.
Free safety Dexter Reid earned first-team All-ACC honors and was second in the nation with 166 tackles (13.8 per game).
Looking ahead to 2003:
The team graduated just 14 letter-winners and only six starters; plenty of young players reaped playing time and should have improved when they take the field this season (three out of four UNC players last season were either freshmen or sophomores). But how much can young players develop when they are outscored 421-223? The Heels will be a case study this season, and perhaps next season as well. North Carolina plays nine 2002 Bowl teams this year and will be hard pressed to avoid some of the thrashings the team suffered last season. The ACC schedule is chocked full of potential pratfalls, with the perpetual exception of Duke and, in addition to the Badgers, the non-conference schedule includes Arizona State. A five-win season should be considered very good progress.
Durant, though, is worth the price of admission. The only three departing starters on offense were the two receivers and the tight end, but current starting tight end Bobby Blizzard was a big-time performer as a reserve last season. The 275-pound senior caught 28 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns last season. He should be one of the better ends in the nation this season. Replacing Aiken at receiver will be very tough, but junior Jawarski Pollock (31-464-4) and sophomore Derrele Mitchell (15-232-0) will be prime targets as well. The line returns intact, but allowed 46 sacks last season. Still, if Durant stays healthy, North Carolina's record books are not safe.
Dexter is the leading returning tackler in the nation and he could be an All-American. Unfortunately for UNC, one of the worst defenses in the nation probably will not improve too much this season.