Flooding and football were partners on Saturday.
The weekend held a strange juxtaposition to the continued hardship in eastern North Carolina from Florence and a return to normalcy around the rest of the state. And while one didn’t necessarily help the other, there was new perspective that seemed to have surfaced by the end of the day.
Anyone following football on TV or other devices Saturday saw some good games but also some hopeful reports that life might someday return to as it was down east. While the unprecedented flooding still had some homes and highways under water, constant well-wishes went out from coaches before, announcers during and some players after the games.
All three Triangle programs had loaded tractor trailer trucks and other vehicles with supplies for the disenfranchised in the flood-ravaged areas, and participants in the games might have realized what they were doing paled compared to what others around the state still were struggling through.
Here in Chapel Hill, a nice crowd turned out for the postponed home opener, and the Tar Heels looked like they had benefited from the cancellation of one game and the time away it afforded. The head coach called it a reset, and Carolina played a surprisingly consistent and steady game considering how poorly its season had started.
Junior quarterback Nathan Elliott had to know he was on a short leash after the losses at Cal and East Carolina. While Larry Fedora admitted after the 38-35 win over Pitt that Elliott had been too scared of making mistakes the first two weeks, his quarterback responded to the quick trigger awaiting him by having his best college game, answering the challenge by directing a potent offense and hitting an expanded group of open targets that the coaches had produced with a well-conceived game plan.
The defense — led by linebacker Cole Holcomb who, dare I say, reminded me of a sort of Luke Kuechly light — shut the Panthers out in the third quarter, and held them to 108 second-half yards while Carolina took control. Afterward, a clearly relieved Fedora acknowledged his hard-working players had come back with a broadened perspective and said he hoped the victory would bring some small form of joy to those without any lately.