UNC focuses on NC State
CHAPEL HILL ó North Carolinaís players had no time to reflect on their win over Wake Forest before the questions turned to facing rival North Carolina State.
The Tar Heels are ready to focus on the Wolfpack, too.
ěA rivalry game in state is huge for everyone in the state,î interim coach Everett Withers said Monday. ěItís huge for our players, especially for our seniors, to get this game.î
For North Carolina (6-3, 2-3 Atlantic Coast Conference), the rivalry game has been a big disappointment in recent years. N.C. State (4-4, 1-3) has won four straight meetings, with the last UNC win coming when former coach John Bunting led the Tar Heels past ex-Wolfpack coach Chuck Amato in 2006.
N.C. State is looking to win five straight in the series for the first time since 1988-92 when the teams meet Saturday in Raleigh.
How much do the Tar Heels want a victory after four defeats?
ěReal bad,î UNC defensive end Quinton Coples said. ěTheyíve been fortunate enough to beat us the last couple of years and whatnot, so weíre definitely taking it personal.î
No current players were at UNC when the Tar Heels beat the Wolfpack 23-9 five years ago.
ěWe feel like thatís kind of sad on our part,î UNC freshman kick returner T.J. Thorpe said.
Withers, a Charlotte native and Appalachian State alum, seems more willing to embrace the intensity of this rivalry than former coach Butch Davis.
ěItís two different mindsets,î Coples said. ěCoach Davis looked at every game as a must-win situation. (With) Coach Withers, thereís some games that stand out as statement games. At the end of the day, they both approach games the same way. You have to win.î
Three of N.C. Stateís victories came by four or fewer points and went to the final seconds. In the other, the Wolfpack embarrassed the Tar Heels 41-10 in Chapel Hill in 2008.
North Carolina blasted Wake Forest 49-24 over the weekend, their best scoring output in seven years and highest point total in an ACC game in a decade. But Florida State shut out N.C. State 34-0, though coach Tom OíBrienís team has always saved its best for the Tar Heels.
ěThereís games throughout the year that you can just tell,î OíBrien said. ěYou look at all the guys here today; this is not just a normal game.î
Thorpe said he expects the N.C. State crowd to come ready with taunts about UNCís recent NCAA troubles. And on Monday morning, Thorpeís ex-girlfriend ó an ex-Wolfpack cheerleader ó texted him about the game to say some of her classmates were already hurling insults at Thorpe and his teammates.
Withers figures his Tar Heels could be due to end this skid after stopping some long losing streaks to other ACC rivals in the past year.
ěWe beat Virginia last year (on the road) for the first time in I donít know how many years,î Withers said. ěWe hadnít beaten Wake since 2004, so itís time for the sun to shine on us a little bit.î