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UNC Football: The Beginning of the End

Blink and you’ll miss it

Duke v North Carolina Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

It’s good to beat Duke. Let there not be any equivocation on this point, no quibbling here about the manner in which the game was won. I’ve never met a Duke loss that I couldn’t get along with, and last Saturday is no exception. Smarter folks than I have dissected the defensive breakdowns that led to a closer-than-expected final score; I’ve been too busy luxuriating in the post-win glow that only beating that team from Durham can provide. I’ve practically floated through the first part of my week, remembering fondly the group of Tar Heel gentlemen who were sitting behind me and my fiancée in Kenan on Saturday, and who declared the game lost for Carolina no fewer than eight times throughout regulation and the firs overtime, only to cheer more loudly than any of us when the student section began to spill onto the field.

It’s always good to beat Duke, in anything. The small, petty monster that lives somewhere in the dark recesses of my mind puffs its chest anytime I pass a car with a Duke sticker, as if five o’clock traffic is a race. It’s great to keep the Victory Bell at home where it belongs, and it was fantastic to watch the student section sing the most important parts of the fight song from the home endzone after our collective heart attack had subsided.

That was last weekend, though. As grand as it feels to bask in the afterglow of a win for the good guys, time rushes ever onward, and suddenly we are faced with the stark reality of two games remaining in the regular season. A road trip to face a suddenly-not-quite-dead Clemson team is anything but a sure proposition (despite the Tar Heels currently holding a transitive win over the Tigers), and a pit stop in Raleigh on the way home will undeniably happen as well. These last two weeks will fly by, dropping us squarely into the holiday season and the accompanying pre-bowl lull. It’s my goal, this holiday season, to savor every remaining minute of Tar Heel football that is left, regardless of the numbers on the scoreboard.

This team can be good enough to win out, even if we count them out multiple times in a given game. As it stands now, the 20th-ranked Tar Heels are 8-2, and all of us who will be living and dying with this team can expect to age two to eight years between now and whenever the team takes the field in their bowl game. Where and when remains to be seen, but there’s not much time left until we find out. In the meantime, let’s savor these intervening moments when we are still in the midst of a Tar Heel football season.