Last week I started the countdown with the best Carolina football memory I have from seven years of fanaticism. That memory sometimes overshadows another great finish three weeks earlier.
The 2003 N.C. State game took place in Raleigh and did not appear on television. I had little or no exposure to the State football rivalry when they came to Chapel Hill in 2004. The 2-3 Tar Heels took down the No. 25 Wolfpack in the greatest goal-line stand these eyes have ever seen. State sent T.A. "Touchdown Always" McClendon up the middle for a dagger at the buzzer. It was a touchdown, almost.
This game established Bunting's boys as a team that could beat anybody on the right day. The flip side of that coin was that we could also lose by 30 or 40 points on the wrong day. State and Miami were the height of excitement of the Bunting era and still stand as the best home wins in my memory. You can say what you want about John Bunting, and I will say what I want to say about him. He silenced the 'Pack nearly every year. I remember a football player on my floor wore a shirt with the state of North Carolina and the imperative "TAKE IT BACK" underneath. I am glad we appear to have moved on to better things.
The difference between the 2004 Miami and State games was the pregame and last-second expectation. Students expected to lose to Miami by 63 and beat State by a touchdown or two. But in the last seconds of the Miami game, I was almost certain we would win. I thought we had no chance on the last play of the State game. Our stop was a sudden, unexpected elation.
Go to hell State. I will see you in Raleigh with the two musketeers when we punch our ticket to the championship game. Will you be able to do the same?