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The Daily Tar Heel

Saturday (ECU v. UNC) Continued

2:21 p.m.
Tar Heel Town

An Oldies 100.7 disc jockey interviews former UNC quarterback Rod Elkins, reflecting on the team's last confrontation with the Pirates in 1981 and Bunting's strategy for today's matchup.

"What a great game," Elkins says about the last matchup. "Better for them than for us, maybe, but a great game."

2:30 p.m.

After taking off their raincoats, a variety of fans wearing either purple and gold or Carolina blue had a few drinks with their lunches at Goodfellows to prepare for the showdown.

With only an hour to kickoff, the football fans in Goodfellows, a restaurant and bar on East Franklin Street, were warming up for the game with reassuring words of victory and bottled beers in hand.

"My wife and I are here, we just kind of wandered in," says Michael Gibson, a 1987 ECU graduate. "We're enjoying the Franklin Street activities."

Gibson was at the bar with his wife enjoying one of the drink specials, a Carolina Pride Kamikaze shot, which is a mixture of vodka, Blue Curacao and lime juice sour.

"This was a `Carolina Pride Kamikaze,' but the bartender turned it purple for me because I paid him more money," Gibson says.

"It tastes great now that it is purple," he adds.

Bartender Chip Eakes says he has served about a dozen kamikazes today but will go through dozens more after the game if UNC won.

"After the Florida State game, there was a huge rush for them," Eakes says. "I ran through two bottles of Blue Curacao in maybe an hour."

Next to Gibson is UNC graduate Michael Hallbauer and his friend Paul Lovett, who are drinking a few beers while munching on barbecue wings. Hallbauer says he is taking Lovett to the game with his season tickets.

"It's going to be tough," Hallbauer says. "ECU is always good, but after the Florida State game, I'm pretty impressed."

ECU fans have different predictions as Gibson says, "I think if we can not turn the ball over we'll win by two touchdowns."

Other patrons sit at tables, such as Chris Lassiter, his wife, Valerie, (both UNC grads) and Chris' father, Allen. They say they were looking for a good place to enjoy themselves before attending the game, which they never miss in Chapel Hill.

"If we lose, East Carolina will not let us live it down," Chris says.

"If we beat them by seven points, we're going down in the rankings," Allen says. "If we lose, we're going home."

2:40 p.m.
Tar Heel Town

The band gathers on the steps of Wilson Library in preparation for the march to Kenan Stadium. A powerful rendition of "God Bless America" garners applause and whistles from the fans still at Tar Heel Town.

To wrap up the afternoon's activities on a spirited note, the band launches into Pirate-taunting call and response.

"From Conference USA they be, they're not ready for the ACC. Just before their ship will sink, we'll make those pirates walk the plank."

2:43 p.m.

Vince Edwards surveys the passing crowds of people and thrusts his arm into the air, two tickets in hand.

Shouts of "Tickets! Tickets!" sound off repetitively like sirens, beckoning individuals to approach the sources of the calls. Standing along the walkway leading up to Gate 6 of Kenan Stadium, Edwards is one of many scalpers here trying to sell extra seats to the game.

Edwards, a showroom manager for a retail store in Wilson, considers himself to be a loyal UNC fan and has not missed a single football game in years. "We've gone up to Virginia and over to Texas to support the Tar Heels," he says.

But this weekend two of Edwards' friends cannot make it and he decides to sell their tickets. "I'm not into selling them to make money, but I need to at least cover the cost of the tickets," he says.

Chris Beal, a freshman at Western Carolina University, cranes his neck around the sea of people in attempts to locate tickets for the game. He and his father have been coming to UNC games for years but were unsuccessful in obtaining tickets before today.

Though they do want to get in the game, Beal says he realizes this is the time to watch out for outrageous pricing. "We saw a guy on the other side trying to sell $32 tickets for $75," Beal says, shaking his head. "There's no way."

Beal and his father eventually settle on Edwards' tickets that have a $32 face value but sell for $50 each today. "I'm not trying to rip people off," Edwards says.

Beal happily clutches his tickets in hand with a satisfied look on his face. Though he says he believes scalpers are wrong to raise their prices, Beal knows sometimes buying tickets from them is the only option.

He says, "I'm just trying to get into the game."

2:45 p.m.
Marching Tar Heels

The Marching Tar Heels can be heard all over campus, greeting spectators and visitors as they arrive at the stadium.

Dressed in their blue and black, and despite their lack of preparation due to the weather earlier in the morning, they play just as well as they played in rehearsal, each song clear and resonant even outside the walls of Kenan Stadium.

3 p.m.
Will Call

As thousands of fans are beginning to flood the gates of Kenan Stadium, the Will Call booth at Gate 6 is reaching its peak level of activity.

Fans and reporters are waiting to pick up tickets left for them by friends or employers.

Instead of being handed their tickets, some fans are playing a role in a grand comedy of errors.

A reporter from Fox Sports Net has been waiting at the booth for 10 minutes, anxiously spelling his name over and over only to learn his employer placed his ticket under a different spelling.

A woman showing her identification is told her tickets are at Gate 10's Will Call booth on the other side of the stadium. "But that's where we were in the beginning!" she says, exasperated.

Some of the fans are being directed to the Player's Guest Will Call Building, where they can pick up their tickets and pass directly into the stadium.

Because there are no lines through the building's entrance near Will Call, a student sets his beer down outside and tries to enter. To his consternation, he is turned away and directed to the student-only entrance at Gate 5.

Workers stop others if they try to bring food. Behind the counter bags of snack food -- chips, pork rinds and popcorn -- are piled high.

Some staffers wince as they see a fan with food approaching.

"I'm going to have to take your popcorn, sir. I'm really sorry," one says.

At the Will Call building, a gameday rescue worker is stopped. He doesn't have a ticket and is waiting patiently as a staff worker consults with her superior through a walkie-talkie.

The rescue worker jokes, "Do I really need a ticket? I can show you a box of band-aids or something.

"I'm just kidding. I know you're only doing your job."

3 p.m.
Gate 5

Gate 5 is now the busiest gate in the stadium as a line of mostly UNC students begin to chant "Tar Heels" in unison.

A young boy wearing a blue UNC shirt hoists a pole of peanuts and cotton candy above his head and calls for the fans entering the stadium to buy his goods.

Security guards pat down anyone wearing a rain jacket while communicating with each other through headsets.

It has just started to rain again, and fans head for the covered concession area of the west end zone.

"Raise Up" by Petey Pablo pours out of the loudspeakers on top of the field house as UNC players warm up in preparation for the battle ahead.

3:04 p.m.
The Chancellor's Box

Even though kickoff is only 30 minutes away, the Chancellor's Box is mostly empty.

White cloths are still draped over the tables of food, and the student members of Order of the Bell Tower have just arrived to begin serving.

Private elevators paneled with dark wood and manned by operators are carrying the Chancellor James Moeser's guests up to the box to watch the game, eat and socialize at a dizzying height above the field.

The walls of the long thin room are lined with tables loaded with cookies, bags of chips, hot dogs and soda. One wall is floor-to-ceiling glass, affording a view of Kenan Stadium.

Just outside are high bar tables and cushioned Carolina blue stadium seats. Inside, servers in black bow ties and aprons walk around checking the food, their feet treading on thick gold carpet decorated with UNC symbols and rams' heads.

After a few minutes of preparation, fans begin to trickle in.

Two adolescent boys sit outside at a table, one munching on popcorn and the other eating a large chocolate chip cookie. They stuff their faces and gaze around the box. One boy shakes his head and smiles with wide eyes when asked if he's ever watched a game from the Chancellor's Box before. He's obviously impressed by the view and the copious amounts of free food.

But for his companion, this is routine. He's always watched games from the seats in the sky. "I don't know how long its been open, but since then," he says.

A few feet away, Susan Moeser stands chats with Nancy Kenan. The chancellor's wife is dressed in a baby blue suit, and a scarf decorated with UNC symbols is tied around her neck. A small American flag pin decorates her lapel. Kenan munches on a bag of chips and the two women laugh together.

The chancellor, wearing a blue and white checked tie with his suit, stands by the elevators eating a bag of popcorn and talking with three men in dress pants, blazers and Carolina blue dress shirts.

"Hello man!" one of the chancellor's companions bellows to a new member joining the group. "Bigger belly! You look good today."

Elsewhere, senior Vaishali Patel, a member of the Order of the Bell Tower, pours a Coke for a woman in a purple shirt, one of the few ECU fans in the box.

The woman asks Patel about her major and year in school. "We really do appreciate you all doing this," she tells Patel after she hands her the Coke.

Her husband approaches, wearing an ECU baseball hat, and she introduces him to the young student. "Vaishali is a senior and getting ready to probably go to work in the governor's office," she says. Turning to the UNC senior, she smiles. "If you ever come to Raleigh, come and visit."

"Definitely," Patel replies.

3:20 p.m.
The Chancellor's Box

The music and cheering outside is deafening. The band is running onto the field and gets in place to play, its formation perfectly visible from the sky box. The chancellor's guests, only a few feet from the spectators in the nosebleed section, watch the scene of enthusiasm with little of their own. But when the band strikes up "God Bless America," all the people in the box rise to their feet. An elderly woman in a khaki trench coat sings along, swaying back and forth to the music.

At the sound of the last note, she smiles, claps enthusiastically and lets out a whoop for the Marching Tar Heels. Her companions, other older women in trench coats, stand still and watch silently.

3:20 p.m.
Kenan Stadium

The low buzz of the crowd at Kenan Stadium is interrupted by the first words of the game announcer. As he wishes the fans "Carolina blue" skies, the UNC Marching Tar Heels takes the field.

The band starts out with a rousing rendition of Vic Huggins' "Here Comes Carolina," whipping the home crowd into a frenzy.

But the mood suddenly became pensive, and the air, silent, as the band slowly built up the introduction to "God Bless America." Behind the east end zone, three young men dressed head to toe in light blue Tar Heel garb sing loudly, reading the lyrics posted on the auxiliary scoreboards.

The national anthem follows.

Game time is near.

3:25 p.m.
Gate 5

As the mass of students pushes closer and closer to Gate 5, the rumblings of discontent grow louder and louder as game time draws nearer.

"Let's move!" a man in a cowboy hat and a Carolina blue T-shirt shouts over and over. But his protests don't seem to be getting him anywhere.

Restless groups periodically shout out expressions of support for the Tar Heels, leading to whoops and cheers that ripple throughout the crowd.

But the greatest cheers come when a security guard, standing on a wall high atop the crowd near the gate, reaches into a pouch in his red overalls and begins tossing confiscated bottles of liquor into the crowd.

A mad scramble ensues as students dive to the ground and rise triumphant, clutching tiny bottles of Bacardi.

"Hey, man, if we can drink it before we get up there, ain't nothing they can do," says one student to another before they raise their bottles in an impromptu toast to the Tar Heels.

3:29 p.m.
Gate 2

Kickoff is only minutes away, but the crowd outside Gate 2 is still huge. People swell through the gates, including a group of ECU fans. One woman in the group has on an purple and yellow ECU jacket and purple socks. Purple and gold feathers adorn her hair. She's with a group of teenagers, all of whom have face paint and are brandishing yellow foam ECU swords. They discuss where to meet up after the game and decide to return to Gate 2.

The teenagers run off in the opposite direction of the feathered woman, screaming, "Purple! Gold! Purple! Gold!"

3:30 p.m.
Gate 2

Two adolescent boys in orange vests stand by Gate 2 with their trays of soft drinks and snacks on the ground in front of them. Fans swarm by them, intent on finding their seats. They haven't sold anything in awhile. Finally a woman approaches one of the boys and hands him a $5 bill. He counts out her change and gives her the last bag of Carolina blue cotton candy. It matches her Carolina blue sweater.

3:31 p.m.
The Field

The newly laid sod behind the east goalpost is discolored and worn. It was put in after fans tore down the goalpost following the win against FSU.

Past the end zone, the double doors at the end of the tunnel leading to and from the North Carolina locker room slowly push open, and out walk seniors Ronald Curry, Quincy Monk, Jeff Reed and Ryan Sims. The quartet saunters out on the field and gestures to the crowd before taking the coin flip.

Back in the tunnel, Kitwana Jones is hyped. The sophomore linebacker from Wilmington is jumping around with the his teammates, waiting for the signal to tear out onto the field. Jones claps sophomore kicker Jeff Scudder and yells before racing out onto the field with the rest of the Tar Heels.

3:36 p.m.

Place-kicker Jeff Reed places the ball on a tee sitting on the left hashmark of the UNC 35-yard line. Clouds still hang over the field, and a light breeze keeps the flags on the east end of the stadium from hanging limp.

Reed addresses the ball, looks to each side and begins his approach. The crowd noise slowly builds, until that final moment when Reed's right leg pendulums down toward the ball.

He kicks off, and the game, at long last, has begun.

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