CHAPEL HILL– The UNC football team’s 39-17 win against Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl Saturday was one to savor. But it was especially sweet for the senior class.
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Belk Bowl MVP Ryan Switzer says he gives the credit to the resilient seniors for Carolina’s ability to turn its season around after the 1-5 start.
“We had to have the heart to do it. I’ve never played on a team that’s done this before. I’ve never played on a team that didn’t let guys quit and tank it. I think that’s a credit to our seniors, and that’s why they’re going out with a win today,” Switzer says.
The UNC seniors have been through a lot. They’ve waded through the entire lifespan of the NCAA investigation, suffered the consequences of reduced scholarships and loss of postseason eligibility, and played under three separate head coaches during their tenures at Carolina.
And through it all and with little fanfare, the seniors have held their heads high and managed to overcome the distractions by doing what they know how to do best: winning football games.
Head Coach Larry Fedora says he’s proud of his team’s latest win. He says it wasn’t perfect, but the Tar Heels found a way to get it done.
“I’m really proud of the way these guys played. We didn’t play perfect. We didn’t play our best game. But we played well enough to win a football game. It was a great week, a lot of fun, and a great way to end it,” Coach Fedora says.
Senior safety Tre Boston persevered through one more challenge before hanging up his Carolina jersey for the last time. He was asked to play the linebacker position in the bowl game by Coach Fedora. And Boston says he was happy to fill the role for the team.
“Coach asked me. He really needed me. I was more than happy to do it for him and help show my versatility,” Boston says.
Fittingly, Boston snagged an interception in the waning minutes of the game. He says he felt God might have had a hand in the play.
“It’s a blessing. That was [Dominique] Green’s ball literally. Foe it to be tipped to me, I was telling Green that was God paying me off for four years of hard work. It’s crazy the four years I’ve had here. I think that was a blessing to end my career like that,” Boston says.
Boston says the officials asked for the intercepted ball back, but there was no way he was giving up the memento.
Senior defensive end Kareem Martin finished in a flurry on Saturday. He wreaked havoc in the Bearcats backfield and earned Carolina’s first safety since 2009.
Martin says this turnaround season will likely go down as his personal favorite from his years at UNC.
“I’ve had better seasons here, record-wise. What we went through as a team starting off. Everybody wrote us off. […] Just to be where we are right now is the greatest feeling, and it’s the reason why this is probably my favorite season since I’ve been here,” Martin says.
The future looks bright for Carolina football, but a lot of that rosy outlook has to be credited to the fighting spirit and determination of the seniors.