By Art Chansky Art Chansky's commentary on WCHL, Sports Notebook, airs Monday-Friday. He is also the author of 6 books on Tar Heel basketball; the latest -- The Blue Divide -- is currently in bookstores nationwide.

Chansky: Cock-Shocked

By Art Chansky Posted August 31, 2013 at 6:35 am

How ironic that lightning bolts in the sky is the background theme on Carolina’s football media guide and schedule cards for 2013. Lightning pretty much ended the Tar Heels’ much-anticipated national exposure Thursday night.

When the threat of severe thunder storms (that eventually arrived) forced a 90-minute delay in the season opener at South Carolina, ESPN switched to the Ole-Vanderbilt game and returned in time for one last indignity – senior quarterback Bryn Renner stumbling just short of the goal line on fourth down (making losers of all those who took the Tar Heels getting 13 points).

The Gamecocks did throw one more bomb, trying to pad their 27-10 margin. And afterward, Steve Spurrier made some crack about UNC running up the score last season on Elon and Idaho. Almost a septuagenarian, the once-slender gunslinger is showing a noticeable paunch and limp when he walks on and off the field. But, clearly, the Head Ball Coach still has the Midas touch, going for his third straight 11-win season in Columbia.

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It’s not as if Renner and the Tar Heels won’t strike like lightning for the rest of the season; certainly they will after recovering from what ESPN’s Reece Davis called a “Beat Down” when the Gamecocks bolted (ahem) to a 17-0 lead. The Heels will rebound a lot faster than their gridiron image.

That’s the treachery of agreeing to such a high-profile game. For many watching in pre-prime time, how you start is how you finish. And so Carolina will have to work its powder blue butt off to earn another chance to prove this wasn’t just a football school beating down a basketball school.

It was a risky proposition from the start, when the Thursday telecast opened with the graphic “SEC on ESPN”. Attention UNC recruits: if you didn’t upchuck over the Tar Heels’ performance, you can still play on national TV in prime time because the ACC has a regular place in Thursday night games.

And I’m not sold on the new unies. Powder blue is soft enough on the jerseys but on the headgear? It might have been better if the game hadn’t started with a bunch of blue helmets being scrummed down the field and then blown by in the secondary. Two bursts and a bomb and, POW, right in the kisser 79 seconds in!

We made a star out of senior Connor Shaw, who is the winningest quarterback in South Carolina history (actually, that’s really Spurrier). Shaw has that distinction for two reasons: until recently, there wasn’t a lot of winning in South Carolina history, and any quarterbacks who did win somehow didn’t stay eligible for four years. But Shaw looked like a champ early, throwing a 65-yard TD strike over busted coverage on his first pass. So did back-up Dylan Thompson who also found the end zone on his first attempt.

To win Thursday night, the Tar Heels had to play almost perfectly. Far from it, but they were about to make it very interesting after Renner hit Quinshad on a crossing route to close the gap to 17-7. The out-sized defense finally got tired of being pushed around and forced a punt from the Gamecocks’ goal line.

Man does T.J. Thorpe, who is from Durham Jordan and will be a star someday, wish he had that one back! Easy catch, silly muff, ball bouncing right into the hands of the home team. There went UNC’s chance to not only make it interesting but maybe take the lead with the second half kickoff. Instead, the Heels traded a disappointing field goal after their best drive of the night for a touchdown that covered 75 yards in one play. Game over.

Despite being Cock-shocked, the best thing about the night was that our Carolina played fast, if not smart and physical. So fast that USC’s all-everything Clowney went to the sideline sucking wind as his NFL stock might have dropped a rung or two. He was hoping to have a big night under the bright lights and then, according to his rep, play when he wanted to for the rest of the season.

The Tar Heels will HAVE to play lightning out from here on in, plus patch up a still-leaky defense, if they want to win the ACC Coastal for the second straight year. By the time they get back on ESPN on Thursday night on October 17 against The U, the Heels had better be ready to prove that powder blue is meaner than it looks.

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