It’s small things, at first. A few crunchy leaves skittering across the street, or pinwheeling down from the trees as the wind blows. The new coolness of the nights, in stark contrast with the sustained humid heat of a Southern summer. The evening beginning to encroach more and more on the afternoon, ushering in the darker part of the year. In July, summer seems to last forever, but before you know it it’s November.
Welp, here we are. It’s November 1st, and the college football season is two-thirds over. Trick-or-treaters have come and gone, and the remaining candy stash is dwindling fast. The Tar Heels have played eight games, with four games remaining in the regular season. Win out, and the team from Chapel Hill is looking at an unprecedented eight-win season. Split the remaining games and Carolina is still bowl-eligible, a marked improvement over last season that saw the Heels finish with only two wins. Whatever happens, it’ll happen quicker than you’d think; to me, it feels like yesterday that we were all celebrating a win over South Carolina.
These are like the explosions of color that makes people flock to the western part of our state to gawk at the trees of the Blue Ridge mountains. There are four games remaining, four times that we’ll get to see this particular version of the Tar Heels take the field. These are the beautiful moments that we spend the offseason pining for. Unlike the leaves, however, which are beholden to the forces of nature, the Tar Heels have the opportunity to do something they haven’t done since 2016: extend their season.
After two seasons with five wins between them, the 2019 version of the Carolina football team has the opportunity to match that total with a win against Virginia tomorrow. The Tar Heels went 2-1 in the month of October, and will certainly hope to keep that winning record going through November with games against Pitt, Mercer, and NC State waiting after tomorrow’s matchup with the Cavaliers.
I’ve written before about the fall of the year feeling like a season for endings. The chill in the evening air drives home the point that the calendar makes, that the warm months have gone and soon come the cold days and long nights. We only ever had 12 opportunities to watch this Tar Heel team play football, and eight of them have already come and gone. If we’re lucky, these next games will go well enough to allow us one more opportunity to cheer for the blue and white, extending the season in which we can enjoy Tar Heel football by one more game, and that will have to be enough.
So like the leaves, brilliant as they are for the few days before coating the ground, this team must be appreciated while it’s still in front of us. Who knows what the next iteration will look like? Who knows how well Mack Brown’s stellar recruiting will translate to on-field success? All I know is it’s a long, long time until next August, so I’m going to make this last month last as long as I can.