After finishing our final Good Sports show on WCHL before the Maryland-Carolina game, I was intending to go to the hotel sports book and bet on the Tar Heels to cover the 24.5 point spread by which they were favored to beat the Terrapins.
Only, I waited too long, watching the end of the Virginia-Virginia Tech game, which I had bet on the Hokies to win by more than their 10.5 spread. Now I have another reason to hate the Gobblers. They couldn’t score more than 17 points on a UVa defense that had been giving up 35 to 40 in recent weeks.
Then, after watching UNC’s first half unfold, I was glad I did not get to the wager window on time. Despite Bryn Renner and Gio Bernard having their typical offensive days, the Tar Heels gave up long plays to a Maryland team quarterbacked by an ex-linebacker who looks like, well, a linebacker.
No. 31 had the paunch of an LB and was hard to bring down when he ran; the stocky lefty also had a surprisingly good arm for Maryland’s fourth-string quarterback after all the others got hurt for the future Big Ten member.
Maybe Maryland played Carolina so tough from the inspiration of its new destination. After all, the ACC has proven itself one of the most overrated leagues in college football history – witness Georgia Tech (at Georgia), Florida State (at home to Florida), Clemson (at home to South Carolina) and Wake Forest (at home to Vanderbilt) losing all four games convincingly against SEC foes Saturday. Maryland, headed out of the ACC, looked very much alive for most of the late afternoon in Chapel Hill.
The Terps stayed with Carolina in the first half on one-handed catches, reverse passes and, amazingly, went ahead at the break on a one-play scoring drive following a fumbled kickoff by the shaken Heels.
Up to that point, I had won money on the Patriots over the Jets Thursday night and never rooted harder for Duke to cover the spread against scrappy VCU Friday night. I did make a mistake on betting against Arizona State in a basketball tournament out here because the Sun Devils are coached by Herb Sendek, who we hated when he was at the other State in Raleigh. Sendek’s team covered.
Virginia Tech’s failure to cover had left me even money on the weekend, and I was about to quit.
Then they put up a halftime line on the Carolina game, the Tar Heels by 14. Didn’t matter that they were behind, 28-21, all they had to do was outscore Maryland by 15 points in the second half. Sure thing, I thought.
The Terps Stefon Diggs ran the second-half kickoff back 100 yards to give them a 14-point lead, but Renner went back to work on his 5 touchdown passes and Gio got to churning out tough yards. Soon, Carolina had scored enough to be “winning” the second half by 17 points, and I was looking good!
As for the game, by the way, Carolina was winning that, too, by 10 points. Smaller matter, of course, when your money is on the line.
Meanwhile, I was checking on another basketball game I had bet between Cornell of the Ivy League and one of the dumbest teams and I had ever seen the day before. A lock for the Big Red to win and cover, right?
Well, they turned out to be not so smart on this day, and the dumb team got mighty lucky, banking in 3-pointers and making twice as many free throws as they had clanged the day before.
Back to the Tar Heels, who got conservative with their 10-point lead and started working the clock, which good teams should do. And that Maryland quarter-backer made a HUGE fourth-down completion to Diggs to keep a drive alive.
It didn’t cost Carolina the game, because all the Terps got was a field goal. But it tied the second half spread and I went to the window to get a refund on my bet, but not to collect any winnings.
And Renner continued his surge as perhaps the greatest UNC quarterback ever, throwing for unprecedented yards his last four games on the way to setting a school record for TD passes in a season (28). He already shared the five scoring throws in one game with other notables named Darian Durant and Kevin Anthony.
Bernard piled up more yardage, and also can become known as the greatest in UNC history if he joins Renner to return for the 2013 season.
If they do, and Fedora shores up a leaky defense with maturing players and new recruits, merely eight wins will be a thing of the past.