UNC looks to assert itself in ACC Coastal
CHAPEL HILL ó Hakeem Nicks stuck to the one-at-a-time mantra for as long as he could before admitting that, yes, on some level, North Carolina has been keeping an eye on this weekís game for a while.
Thatís only natural ó defending Atlantic Coast Conference champion Virginia Tech is up next for the up-and-coming Tar Heels.
iItís been in the back of my mind because I knew we had to play Virginia Tech, but itís not something Iíve been dwelling on or thinking about when we were preparing for McNeese (State) or Rutgers,î the North Carolina receiver said Monday. iNow that itís here, I can say that weíre going to prepare very well for it, like we did against Rutgers, and do what we have to do to win the ball game.î
This is the measuring-stick week that the unbeaten Tar Heels quietly have been waiting for.
Their showdown with the Hokies gives them their first in-conference chance to legitimize the preseason buzz that anointed them a chic pick to contend for supremacy in the up-for-grabs Coastal Division.
Itís an opportunity to prove their 2-0 start and last weekís 44-12 rout of Rutgers were no flukes. And although itís only Week 4, the stakes could include the inside track to the division title.
iAt the end of the season, youíre going to look back at all these games,î coach Butch Davis said. iIf you lose to Rutgers and you won the next 10, would it make any difference? Every game is important, and if you beat Rutgers and you lose the next 10, does it make any difference?
iYou kind of do all your reflecting on how successful you were after all the games in the season are over with. This is the next game, and itís a big step. They are an ACC team, so we want to play well.î
Things havenít gone this well in Chapel Hill in years. The Tar Heels have won their first two games for the first time since 2000. They won a game played outside the state for the first time in 20 tries. And theyíre out for their first 3-0 start since Mack Brownís 1997 team opened with eight straight wins.