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UNC Football: Bookends

Start strong, finish strong.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Pittsburgh Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

On a shelf in my room, there’s a line of books. A few of my old favorites anchor a line of titles, with more recent purchases and some sadly as-yet-unread stories interspersed between them. They’re familiar to me; the shadows of the differently-sized books lend an odd kind of comfort to the room after lights out. On either side of this line of books are a pair of old bookends, holding together this seemingly random and otherwise unrelated bunch of stories. The bookends were gifts, probably given to me long ago by some relative who got fed up with looking at all of my books leaning on each other and thought I could use a little order in my life. This is still correct, of course, but at least my bookshelf is better off than it was. These bookends lend context to the intervening books, marking them as more of a collection of things that are connected by my interest than just a random unrelated stack of books.

The 2019 season thus far, for the Tar Heels, is nothing more than a collection of stories. A few of them similar, some bigger, and some more enjoyable than others, the stories of this season are as familiar as the shelf in my bedroom. I enjoyed most of the stories as I read them, although some have had less-than-satisfying endings that left me wanting more. I’ve enjoyed the character arc of quarterback Sam Howell, how he’s grown into the spotlight and been incredible in the fourth quarters of games this season. Wide receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown have been some of my favorite recurring characters, with huge receptions that have added intrigue and excitement to stories that may otherwise have been dull and unable to hold my attention.

The loose collection of stories that is the current state of the 2019 Carolina football team could use some order, some context. The season began with back-to-back wins, a feat that hasn’t been repeated yet this year. After Thursday’s overtime loss to Pitt, the Tar Heels own a record of 4-6, two games shy of bowl eligibility. With two games remaining in the schedule, winning out would mean the 2019 regular season was bookended by back-to-back wins. These two wins, hypothetically over Mercer and NC State, would make the team from Chapel Hill bowl eligible for the first time since 2016 and add a beautiful thru-line of context to this collection of stories.

Instead of a lackluster 5-7 or (God forbid) 4-8 in Mack Brown’s first year back at the helm, these proposed double-win bookends to start and finish the 2019 regular season would tell the redemption story of a team getting back to bowl eligibility after five combined wins in the previous two seasons. This added context would make for a much prettier line of stories, propped up as they would be by the wins that earned the team a trip into the postseason.

Bookends are important, and winning out would give the Tar Heels a very attractive set of bookends in this rebuilding year.