It’s been 20 years since the heartbreak in ‘Hooville.
With the Tar Heels going to Virginia on Saturday for a game they are favored to win, what better reminder of a having letdown than the infamous outcome 20 years ago in Scott Stadium, when Carolina had seemingly broken the long drought in Charlottesville? Or so we thought. Certainly, every UNC football fan over 30 remembers what happened.
The Heels have not won at UVA since 1981 despite having a better program over those 15 years. But this time they mounted a 17-3 lead late in the game when Brian Simmons picked off a pass and returned it to the shadow of the Virginia goal line. Game over, right? Another TD, or at least a field goal, puts it out of reach. Then All-ACC quarterback Chris Keldorf tried to rub it in by throwing the ball to the end zone. Either Keldorf missed his target or receiver Octavus Barnes turned the wrong way; that has been debated for two decades.
But Antwan Harris, from Raleigh, intercepted the pass and returned it almost 100 yards to awaken the Cavaliers and their fans, who to that point had imbibed themselves into a blither of disappointment. Still, Carolina led 17-10 and could have put the game away. But, uncharacteristically for a Mack Brown team, the Tar Heels fell apart. They could not move the ball, punted and allowed Virginia to tie the score. Ditto on the next possession, and the Wahoos completed the shocker by kicking a 32-yard field goal with 43 seconds remaining to pull off the 20-17 comeback.
Let the memory of that awful evening Charlottesville hang in the air Saturday so these Tar Heels, many of whom weren’t even born yet in 1996, get a lead a continue dominating the series as they have since the turn of the century. Let’s not forget that pain of 20 years ago. Let’s remember it, and shove it further into the past.