Heels Aim to Stop Streak

Heels Aim to Stop Streak

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - North Carolina's players have heard plenty about their five-year losing streak to rival North Carolina State. On Saturday, they'll find out whether a fresh start under a new coaching staff might reverse their frustrating fortunes.

The Tar Heels (5-3, 2-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) haven't beaten the Wolfpack since Tom O'Brien took over in Raleigh in 2007. The losses have come just about every way possible, from a last-minute touchdown to a blowout and even includes a tipped fourth-down pass that resulted in a Wolfpack touchdown in a close game.

The pressure is already on first-year coach Larry Fedora to snap a losing streak in the rivalry between programs separated by a 30-minute drive on Interstate 40. In fact, Fedora said, the skid had been "pointed out to me since the first handshake when I took the job."

"Probably if I meet somebody new, I could tell you it would be every day," Fedora said. "It's something that our fans, they've made it aware to me what they would like to happen."

He didn't take long to remind his players what's next after last weekend's 33-30 loss at Duke on a last-minute touchdown. The Tar Heels found red ribbons, posters and other N.C. State material littering their locker room on Sunday morning.

The Tar Heels have never lost six straight to the Wolfpack.

"I don't want to leave my senior year and say I lost to Duke and State," UNC defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. "That would just be devastating to me."

It appeared that Fedora would be ready to offer plenty of bulletin-board material back in April when he told a group of boosters in Charlotte exactly how many days were left until the game and that he didn't want to "legitimize their program" by talking about the N.C. State rivalry too much.

He's been careful this week, a change from last year's when interim UNC coach Everett Withers' comments that the school was the state's "flagship" university prompted O'Brien to respond with jabs about the Tar Heels' NCAA troubles that ultimately led to a bowl ban this fall.

Wolfpack fans have taken no small pleasure in those troubles, going as far as to become defacto investigators on N.C. State message boards and uncovering the apparent plagiarism in a term paper by a former UNC player in 2011.

O'Brien knows all about that zeal from N.C. State fans - and he's proven he knows how to win the game that matters most to them.

"I think there's pressure," O'Brien said. "Any time you play your rival, and each and every year is different because the dynamics of the team changes each and every year. Hopefully we've done a good job with them and (the players) realize that this is their team, this is their year and it's their chance to make a statement one way or the other."

While the Tar Heels have no postseason plans, the Wolfpack (5-2, 2-1) can still win the league's Atlantic Division championship after upsetting then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6. N.C. State followed that by getting a late field goal - then surviving a missed kick in the final seconds - to win at Maryland.

Last year, the Wolfpack physically beat up the Tar Heels, knocking quarterback Bryn Renner from the game and giving UNC its first shutout loss in the rivalry since 1960. Going back to the 2010 win, N.C. State has 11 sacks and has held North Carolina to minus-4 yards rushing in the past two meetings.

"Really with this game it's 0-0 with that coaching staff and this rivalry," N.C. State halfback Tony Creecy said. "We can't depend on what happened in the past. We've got to write our own history."

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