This is the fifth of a week-long series of posts sponsored by EA Sports NCAA Football 2011.
The more I think about this, the more games come to mind. Ill try to make it brief, however.
Carolina vs. Duke, 1994. I know no one under the age of twenty will believe me, but there was a time in my lifetime when both Duke and UNC were good at football, and played an exciting game. That time was 1994, when UNC came to Durham with a 7-3 record and angling for a marquee bowl (they would end up in the Sun Bowl), while Duke was in their first year under Fred Goldsmith and had an even better record at 8-2. This game was all offense, with numerous lead changes and came down to a late Tar Heel interception that put the game away at 41-40. We all thought it would be the first of many high-octane games against the Blue Devils; this was obviously not the case.
Carolina and State's Goal Line Stands, 1995 and 1999. Three times in the nineties UNC and State flirted with making their game a post-Thanksgiving tradition, slotting it after the Duke game. The only result was Wolfpack frustration. On a rainy day in Carter-Finley in 1996 State, already eliminated from bowl contention, was only playing to give the Heels their sixth loss and keep them home for the holidays. It looked like they'd accomplished exactly that when they held Carolina on a fourth down goal line stand, only to have the refs rule that UNC did, indeed, make it into the end zone. The Heels won 30-28, and the State fans groaned.
The Wolfpack seemed to get revenge in the second of two games played in Charlotte in 1999; 1998 had gone the Heels' way as well, 37-34. Down 10-6 on the Carolina one with time for one more play, State just needed to move the ball ever so slightly to earn their seventh win and bowl eligibility. With the porous defense that should have been no problem, as UNC had lost to Furman 28-3 two weeks prior. Instead, the run to the right side was stuffed, Carolina would win the game, and State after a loss to ECU would miss a bowl game and lose their coach. Who immediately took a job at UNC.
Connor Barth Outkicks Miami, 2004. I remember flipping to this game late and being surprised Carolina was still in it, and then being floored when Barth pulled that kick off. I knew this was he beginning of Bunting turning things around. Alas, it was not to be, but that shot in front a home crowd that really needed a win like that – remember the Doherty era had just ended on the hardwood – isn't going to be forgotten any time soon.