The 24-hour rule is usually in place following a North Carolina football game, win or lose. Saturday’s record-setting loss would seem to require longer to move past, although the Tar Heels are tasked with shrinking that window.
Sundays in the Kenan Football Center consist of film review and a light practice to work through the prior day’s breakdowns. With a travel day on Wednesday, however, this Sunday will be more intense than usual.
“We're going to find out if we're going to be licking our wounds or if we're going to fight,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora told reporters following the game. “You don't have time to cry about it now. You’ve got to put it away. It's over with. It's not going to carry over into this next one. You can't let it and we’ve got to practice tomorrow. We’ve got to have a real practice so we’ve got to get ready to go."
His players echoed the company line shortly thereafter.
“You’ve got to have a quick turnaround,” defensive tackle Sylvester Williams said. “We’ve got to go in there and get better before Thursday gets here and not let this game beat us twice.”
Running back Gio Bernard suggested that the way in which UNC lost helps speed up the process.
“We put it behind us once the clock hit zero,” Bernard said. “We’ve got to let it go and get ready for Virginia. It’s going to be a good game on Thursday night… You can’t dwell on a loss and we’re definitely not going to do that.”
In any other year, maybe turning the proverbial page would be an effortless motion. But this season has been unique for a variety of reasons. The hoopla surrounding Fedora’s first season seemed to culminate with the emotional victory over N.C. State two weeks ago.
Since there are no postseason aspirations and since delivering the program’s first nine-win season since 1997 is no longer an option, where does the motivation come from, especially following a disastrous outing such as Saturday’s loss?
Senior offensive guard Jonathan Cooper offered a succinct response when asked how the Tar Heels would go about moving past their fourth loss of the season.
“Because that’s all we can do.”
North Carolina may not be able to win nine games, but it can tie the most wins over the last 15 years with two victories to close out the season. UNC can continue to cement the foundation of Fedora’s program, which was all but assured to encounter bumps, bruises and tough losses along the way.
And the Tar Heels can send a senior class that has been to Hades and back out with a winning record and a winning streak, all while knowing those players deserve so much more.
There’s pride left to play for, as well as each other. That should be enough.
“Tomorrow has got to be a new day for us,” Williams said. “And I feel like it will be.”
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