Not Center Stage But Duke Win Is Still Big

O.K. It's not as though the eyes of the nation were fixed on Durham for the game yesterday, but I still think it was a big win for the Heels. Good things have been hard to come by this season and I, for one, am not going to downplay the importance of the game to the Carolina program.

Good Things About The Game Were:

1. It was a W not an L. regardless of the opponent

2. It made visiting the water cooler on Monday a little more pleasant.

3. The win was against Duke even though that's not as important as it used to be.

4. Full stadium. The game must have mattered to someone, either UNC fans who care or Blue Devils who thought they would prevail. It's hard now to imagine 49,500 fans in Duke Stadium like there was for the '49 Duke game and even more for the '42 Rose Bowl game. I'm not sure but I think Duke Stadium used to have temporary bleachers around the top of the stadium like we had in Kenan. How else would they have gotten 16,000 more fans in the stands?

5. Good for recruiting. I'm not sure that winning one ball game helps that much but, given a choice, I will take a win over a loss in this area every time.

6. Probably the most important thing is that we didn't have to go through the indignity of watching the Duke students assume stewardship of the victory bell. It's been in Chapel Hill so long that some consider CH its permanent home. Don't be fooled. We came as close as we possibly could to losing that game and I'm glad it's over.

I'm going to make a confession that will not win me any new UNC friends. I kind of felt sorry for the Duke players and Coach Franks after the game. Duke played a clean game, didn't run their mouths a lot, Coach Franks seems to have a lot of class and keep in mind they do it without red shirting any players. The Duke players never gave up and that's more than I can say for us in the Texas and Maryland games. No need to go into that. I try to be a positive person and I feel some of the players leaving the UNC program is the best thing for them and the football team.

I couldn't help but think of the old adage "All's well that ends well" after the game ended and how that saying, like a lot of others, sounds good but, when examined closely is not really true. A win in the last game of the season does not make up for all the disappointments of this past season and I think Coach Bunting knows it. I've been a little surprised at how patient the UNC fans have been this year and I don't expect them to be so understanding next year. Coach Bunting is one of our own and I want so badly for him to do well but it is absolutely essential that we have an outstanding recruiting year, not just a good one. I think we will.

An interesting little sidelight of the Duke game is that, for some time, I have been planning to write an article on the most exciting finish of a Duke-Carolina football game. I studied Bill Cromartie's book, "Battle of the Blues" and had finally decided which game I thought deserved that honor. I knew there would be less than total agreement with my choice but I had decided that the '76 game when Mike Voight scored a 2 point conversion in the last minute to give UNC a 39-38 lead and the win, was the most exciting finish ever.

Something told me not to write the story until this year's game was played and am I glad that I waited. It is no contest. The 2002 Duke-Carolina finish may very well never be topped for drama. I know how it feels to lose a game like this because I was in Kenan when State did the same thing to us in '90, I believe it was. I could hardly speak for several minutes after the game ended.

So let's all rejoice that things didn't end as badly as they could have and look forward to next year. I take a solemn vow each year that I won't let myself get too excited about the season's prospects and each year, I violate the vow. I don't see anything on the horizon that will change that next year.