When Carolina had some of it's best teams in the early 80s, it always seemed that Maryland was the game which fouled the whole season up. The Byrd Stadium affair in which the students tore down one goalpost with time remaining on the clock after a failed Carolina two-point conversion seemed to take the steam out of a Carolina team that could have been very special.
Who could forget the late 1980s meeting in Kenan that was won on a last-second Tar Heel field goal but mainly remembered by Maryland Coach Bobby Ross chasing the referees off the field claiming Carolina had used a time out which they didn't have? More recently, the Tar Heels have made trips to College Park which were surprising losses in both their margin, 45-7 in 1999, and the fact that the Terps won at all, 23-7 last year.
As the Terrapins make their way toward Chapel Hill this season, I think many of us who follow the Blue and White are left wondering what to watch (or listen) for out of the Tar Heels on Saturday. In this same column last weekend, I wrote that we might not see the Heels beat Wake Forest, but we would see some fight. Obviously, after a 31-0 blanking at the hands of the Deacons, there are various opinions on whether the appropriate amount of "fight" appeared on the field. The most important answers to that question will come tomorrow, as I think we can expect that anyone observed by the coaches not fighting in last week's game -- and this week's practice sessions -- will not be seen on the field.
You've got to figure that Maryland is coming in thinking it won't take too much to put this game in the win column, and rightfully so. But you also have to figure that Carolina's coaches are still looking for the fight and improvement which might not seem huge in the short run, but may make a huge difference in seasons to come when bowl games and perhaps championships could hang in the balance.
The Heels have won one unlikely shootout this year at Arizona State – with a little luck here and there, maybe the Terps would oblige another wild one tomorrow. After all, it would be in keeping with the best traditions of one of the ACC's wildest series.