Above each locker in the UNC football locker room, there is a nameplate. Beside each nameplate there is a sign that reads either “resistant,” “existent,” “compliant,” “committed,” or “compelled.” These labels were derived for each player based on coaches’ evaluations of their level of effort shown in pre-season workouts and practices. The titles are pretty self-explanatory: a player who has shown a dedication to self-improvement and has contributed to the collective progress of the team is deemed “committed” or “compelled”, while a player who has shown little or no work ethic is given a less flattering designation.
In watching Saturday’s game at Louisville, I could only wonder what these evaluations would look like if they were to be updated for the halftime locker room based on the day’s performance. For much of the game, the Heels looked as if they could barely be considered “existent.”
Louisville quarterback Teddy Bridgewater and the Cardinals’ offense seemed to score at will, averaging nearly ten yards per play in the first half. The Tar Heel secondary was ripe with missed defensive assignments, allowing Bridgewater to find more than his fair share of open targets. This was only ameliorated by the fact that the defensive line appeared entirely disinterested at the prospect of having to shed their blockers in order to make a tackle. Describing Carolina’s defense as porous would be a drastic understatement. The UNC offense was little better, putting up just seven points in the first thirty minutes of play.
Of course, those of us who demonstrated the intestinal fortitude to continue watching into the second half saw a completely different story begin to unfold.
In stark contrast to their lethargic first half performance, the Heels began to make plays. The defense came alive, swarming to the ball and shoring up what had earlier been gaping running lanes for Louisville. In stopping the run and putting greater defensive pressure on the quarterback, Carolina was able to hold the Cardinals to just 3 second half points.
In a similar fashion, Bryn Renner and the Tar Heel offense finally began to resemble the cohesive unit that was on display September 1st against Elon. Renner finished the game with 5 touchdown passes and tailback Romar Morris played like a man on fire, earning ACC Receiver of the Week honors for his 202 all-purpose yards, 2 touchdowns, and block of a Louisville punt.
In the end, however, it was just another tale of too little too late. Watching as Renner’s fourth-and-goal pass was wrenched from Erik Highsmith’s outstretched hands, I, along with everyone else, could only wonder where this Carolina team had been in the first half. Where was this intensity? Where was the passion? Better yet, where was the commitment?
This was still in the forefront of my mind as I walked past the Old Well on my way to class Monday morning. I didn’t think twice when I passed the news van parked in front of South Building: in the midst of the media circus of recent months, rarely a week has gone by without at least one news crew adding to congestion on Cameron Avenue. Little did I know this particular van would come to represent the close to a tumultuous chapter for the Carolina family.
I was in Spanish class when the news officially broke that Chancellor Thorp would be stepping down. And so now, it seemed, the purge of the former system was to be complete. From Butch Davis, to Dick Baddour, and now to Holden Thorp, the situation had come full circle.
Without getting into the politics of the matter (and believe me, there’s one heck of a discussion to be had), it’ll suffice to say that the slate has been cleaned. It’s been incredibly disheartening to see a place that I love so dearly to be ravaged by scandal, but I refuse to allow my opinion of this institution to be permanently swayed by the dishonest actions of a few. The damage has been done and now we must move forward.