When Larry Fedora had more wins at Carter-Finley than Dave Doeren had total ACC wins in his career, I bet some friends and foes that Mark Gottfried would have a much longer career in Raleigh than Hands in the Dirt Doeren.
I’ll admit when I am wrong and I misjudged Helicopter Mark. And, for that matter, No. 15 in ‘15 Fedora.
Now it is Doeren that has won three straight against the Tar Heels since that 2015 season. UNC football has work to do, and unfortunately, the football program in Raleigh is in a better position right now than the one in Chapel Hill.
However, when looking at the two major programs at the two schools, one thing was never in doubt: Roy Williams will be on the sidelines until he calls it quits.
With that in mind, the next thought is Carolina’s record against State during the Williams era.
Now 29-4 in 16 seasons. Domination to say the least.
When Tar Heels jumped out to a 12-0 lead in Raleigh last Tuesday night, it was reminiscent of that fateful day in January 2017 when Carolina scored 20 unanswered points from the tip in the Smith Center. They started to nail the coffin in Gottfried’s career at NCSU and polished it off with a 107-56 victory, the worst loss against UNC since a 62-10 loss in the 1920s.
And shew buddy, that 107-56 was so satisfying. “Run it up [Roy], leave no doubt.”
When the Tar Heels punched the Wolfpack in the mouth to start the game, I was certainly hoping for that 50-point blowout. There was that damned red jacket again. (What is the record when whoever the opposing coach wears that monstrosity? Anyone want to check the archives?)
But there was something about Tuesday’s night game that was so fun after the Wolfpack fought back.
No chances for the “Swofford’d” excuses since the striped crew was non-ACC.
No excuses for the Smith Center advantage.
Just a battle between two teams that now play a shockingly similar style.
And, my goodness, it was fun.
With these teams going at a ferocious pace, it was a game of runs. State clawed back a few times in the first half, bringing it within a possession or two, but never getting over the hump.
When the Wolfpack exited the PNC Arena locker room for the final stanza, they were the ones that came out swinging.
Less than two minutes into the second half, State had tied the game. State tied it again a couple minutes later and found themselves within one with ten minutes left.
How was this possible after the ferocious start to the game?
Turnovers were a huge factor. With Cam Johnson out of the game with (at the time) an unknown injury, the stage was set for a Wolfpack victory. And with that damned red jacket again.
But then we were reminded of why Williams and the Heels have dominated the Pack for a decade and a half.
The Heels got tough. They flatlined State for the next five minutes of game time, extending their lead to ten before the Wolfpack found the basket again.
In the waning minutes, even with the outcome sealed and the Tar Heel chant audible in Raleigh, the Wolfpack continued to play.
This game made both teams better, and there were lessons learned that will benefit both come March.
And for players, coaches, students, alumni, and fans alike, the February 5 rematch will be a lot of fun.
Kevin Keatts may not be a winner quite yet, but things are looking better for the bad guys in red. And for the good guys in light blue, that is certainly a good thing.