I’ve read it before in the comments on this blog, to paraphrase: ‘If there’s one thing I’ve learned about being a Carolina football fan it’s that they will always let you down.’ How sad! And yet, there’s a sense of quiet confidence amongst the fanbase. As it has been stated ad nauseum over the past two weeks, the Tar Heels are 4-0 for the first time in 26 years, and for only the ninth time since 1950. So we as a fanbase have not experienced this very often.
To gauge the pulse of Tar Heel nation, I sat down with three generations of UNC football fans to get their thoughts.
What were your expectations for this season before the first game?
Eddie (age 68): If we could have ended up 8-4, I would’ve been fine because I’m looking at the schedule where you’re playing App (always a good football team), Minnesota, and South Carolina (who beat Clemson and Tennessee last year). Well, that’s three. And then the end of the season when you’re playing at State and playing Duke at home and at Clemson; pretty tough. And then you got a Miami team that’s really good. So yeah, when the year started, I thought if we could end up 8-4, that’d be great.
Jessica (age 49): I feel like I am enjoying our bliss and what we have right now. I’m not worried about the future. I’m not worried about the past. I’m enjoying what we have now and I like the fact that we are 4-0. I’m not taking it for granted in any way. Going into this season I was very hopeful, but I was obviously worried since we lost some guys.
Sawyer (age 9): Do better than last year. We lost 4 in a row at the end of the year. Just don’t do that. This is kinda how we started last season and then it went downhill. I think we could have beat Oregon if we had a better kicker.
What are your thoughts about the Heels being 4-0 for the first time in over 20 years?
Eddie: I never had expectations of getting in the college playoffs. I was at the Georgia Tech game last year when a guy that’s in the NFL right now [Josh Downs] dropped a winning touchdown. We should have beaten Georgia Tech. The State game we could’ve won, and the Oregon game we gave away. And then the Clemson game, just the wheels fell off. Listen, you talk the talk but you gotta walk the walk. I don’t mean to be a Debbie Downer. I’ve just lived it and I’ve seen it year after year after year. I’m not letting them break my heart again any time soon.
Jessica: Honestly, I don’t foresee us going to championship games but I see us going to a bowl game. But like I said, I’m appreciating what we have. So what is hard for me when watching it with my dad is when we have exciting plays like Maye’s flea flicker or him throwing it with his left hand and almost being knocked down, he’s too worried about us not winning. I’m just saying enjoy while we got it.
Eddie: But if there’s a way that they can lose it, they’re gonna lose it. Two years ago when we lost to State with an 11 point lead and how much time was left? Less than two minutes. How do you lose a game like that?
Jessica: But that’s part of it. If this was Carolina basketball, like last year, I was very disappointed. I was very upset because I have much higher expectations. But for Carolina football, we don’t have a whole lot of history to build off of. So that’s why when I see things that are amazing, I celebrate them. Now when I see things that go wrong, of course I feel bad, but I’m not gonna let it bring me down off the high that I’m enjoying while we’re 4-0.
Eddie: Until this team proves that they can beat the Clemsons and the Alabamas and the Georgias then why am I supposed to believe they can do it? I was there when they gave up 40 points in one quarter [vs. App]. How does that happen?
Where were you the last time Carolina football was 4-0?
Eddie: ’97?. The main thing I remember about that year is we went to that bowl game and Virginia Tech wasn’t in the conference yet. And we beat the dog crap out of them. We finished like fifth in the nation. The only game we lost that year was the Florida State game.
Sawyer: Not born.
Jessica: I moved to Texas in the fall of ’97. So the following year is when Mack Brown went to Texas so I was enjoying myself quite a bit because I was living in Texas as a North Carolina fan. I was happy to be able to talk about my Tar Heels.
What do you think the biggest challenges are that are left for this team?
Sawyer: Maybe the offensive line needs to still work on giving Drake a few more seconds. And also having our cornerbacks stay on their man and not let them get a bunch of catches. I’m not saying they’re gonna deflect every single pass and pick it off every time, but I just think that the defense is another thing that we maybe need to work on a little bit. Picture which way they’re gonna go and try and stop that. Power Echols is the best at that.
Jessica: I do agree sometimes the offensive line has let us down and I’m not saying that that’s the only reason that Maye has had some mistakes, but it certainly doesn’t help with pressure on him. We knew going into this year, we talked about how much trash our defense is. I definitely have seen great improvements. but then just like last week in the Pitt game, right away they score. Offense sells tickets, defense wins championships. I’ll leave it at that till we get a defense…
Eddie: We’ve still got a lot of work to do. We’ve still got Miami, Clemson, Duke.
What does this team have to do to win the ACC championship?
Eddie: They have to finish strong the last few games. That’s where obviously we hurt last year, but it’s not gonna be an easy path for the road that we have ahead of us. They have to get better on defense. They can’t make the stupid mistakes that they have been making.
Jessica: Give Maye the time he needs to make the plays. We need to show that we can beat the teams that beat us last year.
We’re going into a three-game home stand against Syracuse, Miami, and Virginia. IF we come out of that 7-0 and basketball season is starting the next week, are you still all in on football or are you like, ‘I don’t care. I’m switching to basketball mode’?
Eddie: Yeah, I’ll stick with the football team. I hope they prove me wrong.
Jessica: If they go 7-0 or they’re 5-2, I’m still gonna watch football. I’m gonna watch basketball too, but I love college football. As long as we don’t lose another game to State that we should have won.
Sawyer: Syracuse and Miami will be tough. We can beat Virginia like we did last season. I hope so. They’re 0-5. If we lose to them, I’m gonna be a little embarrassed.
Eddie: But we lost to the Georgia Tech team that had an interim coach and was playing the third string quarterback...
Sawyer: Well that was last season. Let’s focus on the new season Pawpaw. Forget last season. I am going to pull for them no matter what. I’m gonna watch ‘em no matter what. Even if they break my heart I’m not gonna just move on to basketball… But I’m not gonna say that basketball’s not a priority.
That’s all folks. Varied levels of optimism and heartbreak. The only thing to do now is just keep winning!