SAN JOSE DEL CABO, MEXICO – Hola! For years, Woody Durham used to say “See it on the radio,” and that’s what I had to do Saturday in a country where football means something completely different than what we know.
Thanks to the ACC Network (which together with Raycom must rent space on the smallest satellite in the solar system), the best sports bar in this tourist town could find every event up there on ABC, CBS, ESPN and Fox, but not the Carolina-Pitt game.
So through the magic of WCHL, I “saw it on the radio” by calling the station and watching the first half when the Tar Heels bit, chewed and spit out a Pitt team that had taken down Notre Dame on the same Heinz Field just a week before.
And, man, did Jones Angell paint a pretty picture. After Carolina gave up a field goal and turned over the Panthers in their first two possessions, Jones and his broadcast crew described the Heels’ 27 unanswered points in a manner that had my earpiece buzzing.
From the first of two Marquise Williams touchdowns to freshman Ryan Switzer’s second punt return to the house of the season to Carolina’s blitzing defense, the Heels were music to my ears in pounding what sounded like a completely stunned home team. At least that’s what I was seeing on the radio.
Meanwhile, the Retro Sports bar was showing the N.C. State-Boston College game, ironically being called by Wes Durham (Woody’s son). That game looked and sounded pretty good, too, with the Wolfpack losing for the seventh time this season and staying winless in the ACC (0-7).
In the second half, Jones easily helped me envision the green grass ahead of T.J. Logan and Sean Tapley before they dropped a screen pass and stumbled on a reverse. And I could actually feel Kareem Martin teeing off on Pitt quarterback Tom Savage, who was sacked five times in the first half, thrice by Martin. Senior Kareem is playing his way into the NFL draft, also forcing one fumble and recovering a second.
Finally, my queso burger arrived and, while no Big Al’s, it went down a lot smoother with what I was watching on both the radio and TV: field goal by BC, now 20-7 over the Wolfpack.
Onset of indigestion in the third quarter when Carolina traded a field goal for a Pitt touchdown relieved by Eric Ebron returning to the game after I watched him walk into the locker room sans shoulder pads in, never a good sight.
Now full-blown acid reflux as Pitt drove the length of the field, and the once-dominant Carolina defense looked pooped and a bit complacent with the big lead. Jones had serious trepidation in his voice when describing how Pitt had cut a 24-point lead to 10 with still plenty of time to play. I didn’t like what I was seeing on the radio. I didn’t see Savage sacked once since early in the third quarter. I could, quite clearly, see what sideline reporter Lee Pace was talking about when he described a worried Tar Heel bench and an aroused Pitt crowd.
And my eyes weren’t deceiving me when seeing State score on a reverse pass and Romar Morris fumbled in his own territory. Was I watching two sure wins slip away?
I had to clean my glasses. After a Pitt field goal, the Tar Heels led by a touchdown. I threw them on the table when T.J. Logan fumbled the kickoff, giving Pitt another short field after scoring 17 straight points. Now, I was seeing a veteran Pitt team take advantage of a young and careless Carolina team to score its second TD within a minute to tie the game at 27-27.
Look at it this way: Carolina scored 27 straight points. Then Pitt scored 24 in a row. Suddenly, I didn’t want to watch the finish. But I did want to see how tough this Carolina team is.
Tommy Hibbard pinning the Panthers at their own 7 made me want to keep watching. It was time for the defense to see itself as strong and confident as opposed to tired and meek. And look at what happened: three and out.
And then, faster than you can spell G-I-O-V-A-N-I- B-E-R-N-A-R-D, I watched Ryan Switzer do it again, this time bobbing and weaving and cutting 61 yards. “No, he’s not! YES HE IS,” Jones screeched, a la Gio’s gem against State last year.
Then a fourth-down stand, and I wanted to high-five Jones when he allowed me to see Otis, Martin and company “STAND HIM UP!” Heels hang on to win by a Switzer, 34-27, their fourth straight, and reach 5-5 on the season.
Thanks, Jones & Co., for seeing it on the radio. Adios.