Heels of frustration
The Tar Heels return to conference play desperately needing some kind of positive showing, after being shutout at home last week by Louisville 34-0. Coincidentally, the last time Carolina failed to score a point was in its 37-0 defeat to the Seminoles to start the season last year.
Frankly, no one is giving UNC much of chance; except the players themselves.
“You have to play almost a perfect game,” quarterback Darian Durant said. “You can’t have turnovers and you can’t have mental mistakes. You just have to be hitting on all cylinders.
“We just need to improve our mental part of the game. Last week there were a lot of mental errors on both sides of the ball, and they’ll get you beat. If we can improve on the mental part of the game, the physical part is there.”
This will be the first time Carolina has played two consecutive ranked opponents since facing No. 4 Texas and No. 6 Florida State in 2001. That year, the Tar Heels lost in Austin 44-14, but rebounded to upset the Seminoles 41-9.
That kind of bounce is what UNC will need to have any kind of a chance versus FSU this time around. Since the 2002 season, the Tar Heels have responded well the week following a poor offensive showing. Last year, Carolina gained 300 or fewer yards on three occasions, but then averaged 489 yards of offense the following weeks and was 2-1 in those games.
“Having the great week of practice that we have had, we just have to go down there and execute the game plan,” center Jason Brown said following practice on Thursday. “It’s as simple as that. The intensity and mental focus that makes you bounce back from the disappointment of what we experienced last weekend…the guys stayed positive and upbeat. That’s No. 1 right there. We know what’s ahead of us, we’re being steadfast with our goals and we’re sticking with them. We’ve come back out here and worked our butts off.”
To demonstrate just how predictable this game is from the media’s standpoint, not one question during Bobby Bowden’s 11-plus-minute ACC teleconference on Wednesday concerned the upcoming match-up with the Tar Heels.
Yet as would be expected, much of the talk centered on sophomore quarterback Wyatt Sexton, who will be making his first career start in relief of injured senior Chris Rix.
“Chris Rix looks like he’ll be out for two weeks or longer,” Bowden said. “It’s a matter of will he be ready to play in two weeks or will he be ready to practice? Other than that, we’re in pretty good shape.
Some might argue if Rix’s injury is a negative for Florida State. But Bowden is not ready to announce a permanent change just yet.
“When you put a quarterback in there in a responsible situation and in mop-up duty is two entirely different pressures,” Bowden said. “I thought he did an excellent job under the circumstances, but it’s going to take quite a few games before you can say this is for real. I’m pleased so far.”
Sexton’s performance over the coming weeks will determine if Rix will get back on the field. Bowden admitted if his team wins with Sexton, he will have a difficult decision to make.
“That will be a judgment call that I haven’t been faced with in a long time.”
UNC coach John Bunting said on Tuesday that he would have liked to have Sexton in Carolina Blue, but that recruiting against his father, FSU running backs coach Billy Sexton, was just too much to overcome.
“We saw him as a starting quarterback for us and we recruited him as such,” Bunting said. “I know he was very impressed with us. He’s a young man that has a great deal of character. We liked his savvy and the way he approached the game.”
FSU leads the series 13-1-1, which includes a 10-10 tie in Tallahassee in 1986. Last year, the Seminoles sprinted out of the gate and rolled up 301 yards of total offense in the first half against the Tar Heels.
Carolina has not defeated a ranked team since its 38-3 win at No. 13 Clemson in 2001.
This game will be a homecoming of sorts for four Tar Heels. Roger Heinz, Del Roberts, Calvin Darity and Brian Rackley all hail from Tallahassee. Heinz’s brother Matt plays guard for the Seminoles.