On January 17th, 1988, a man named Earnest Byner played in the AFC Championship game. He was a running back for the Cleveland Browns and was trying to lead them to a Super Bowl by defeating the Denver Broncos. Earnest was having a wonderful day and was inches away from running into the endzone to seal the victory. Then, a defender made a brilliant play to knock the ball from his hands. That play has come to be known as “The Fumble.” It was a terrible and undeserved end for Byner, who had been his team’s best player all night. Said Quarterback Bernie Kosar, “It wasn’t Easnest’s fault. We didn’t have a prayer in that game without Earnest.”
And so Tar Heel Nation, as we try and recover from the latest devastating defeat in what is becoming an extended string of devastating defeats, let us acknowledge that it wasn’t Michael Carter’s fault. It really wasn’t.
Through the one and a half games that he has played this season (I say half because Larry Fedora inexplicably didn’t give Carter a touch in the second half against Miami) Michael Carter has been the best player in a Tar Heel uniform. He was, quite rightly, picked by a fellow writer as the player to watch against the Hokies. Last night, he gouged the Hokies for 165 yards on 18 carries, 49 of them coming on one terrific run in the first half. He finished the game with an impressive 9.2 yards per carry. He showed off a terrific explosiveness on all levels, just as he showed in flashes against Miami. He was sensational on 17 carries, until the last one cost UNC dearly.
And let’s be honest: If Carolina’s D, impressive through much of the game, had been able to prevent a Virginia Tech touchdown drive FROM ITS OWN 2 YARD LINE, we’re not talking about The Fumble. If Dazz Newsome doesn’t have a crucial drop, we’re not talking about The Fumble. If UNC doesn’t miss two field goals and fail to score touchdowns on four trips inside the 20, we’re not talking about The Fumble. So if we’re going to talk about The Fumble, we need to talk about The Drive, and The Drop, and The Misses as well. There’s an awful lot of blame to go around.
Keep your head up Michael. You did your part last night.