Fine margins, big gap for UNC
It’s a long walk from the field at Wallace Wade Stadium to the visiting locker rooms, in Duke’s field house at the far end of the practice fields. Larry Fedora made that walk Saturday after yet another loss, while Duke’s Trevon McSwain rode the Victory Bell around like a ringing rodeo bronco, and for Fedora it had the bell-tolling sense of a long walk toward oblivion.
North Carolina continues to lose by the finest of margins, a play here, one critical fumble or dropped pass there, and Saturday’s 42-35 loss to Duke was no different. The Tar Heels had a 39-yard Hail Mary knocked down in the end zone as time expired, and crazier things have happened. Crazier things happened Saturday in a game that saw 11 players score 11 touchdowns.
But it was another loss, North Carolina’s third straight to Duke. As close as North Carolina may be to winning week after week, the losses continue to pile up week after week. As much as the Tar Heels continue to fight, they cannot escape the overwhelming sense of irrelevance that continues to envelop North Carolina’s football program like poison fog.
“You sleep at night because you know you’re not going to get outworked,” Fedora said. “You’re going to work as hard as anybody there is. These kids are going to continue to work hard and it’ll happen. I truly believe that.”
As fine as the margins may be, they add up to a single win this season, over ( potential Coastal Division champion) Pittsburgh. The Tar Heels have lost three straight to Duke, two straight to N.C. State and three straight to East Carolina, leaving Fedora 6-11 against in-state teams. North Carolina hasn’t beaten a Power 5 opponent other than Pitt in more than two years, going from 11-3 to 8-5 to 3-9 to 1-8.
Fedora would argue, and he might be right, that the downward trajectory probably doesn’t reflect the state of the program.