As the Tar Heels prepare for their Saturday night primetime game against the Virginia Cavaliers, some of the players reflect on the emotional season thus far and UNC's nail-biting 20-17 win over in-state rival Duke last week. In that game, linebacker Chazz Surratt caught a game-sealing interception on the goal line in the game's final minute.
“Emotions were high,” defensive lineman Aaron Crawford said. “It was a crazy ending. It was one of the craziest I've been around. But if we really want to focus on this weekend, it has to be put away by now. It had to be put away by yesterday. (UVA) is a team coming in that doesn’t care about the last one, so for us to hold on to that one would be foolish of us.”
North Carolina wants to match the Cavaliers' mentality in Saturday's matchup — so much that Dorn said the Tar Heels are practicing as if they lost to the Blue Devils.
“It’s tough coming off of an emotional win and being able to put that behind you,” Dorn said. “But I think (head coach Mack Brown) does a good job of letting us know what’s in front of us and what’s at stake.”
What's at stake is the title of the best team in a chaotic Coastal Division, after UVA suffered an unexpected loss to Louisville last week, 28-21. The Cavaliers gave up 21 unanswered points, with Virginia turning the ball over twice.
The Cavaliers' bread and butter on the defensive side of the ball is their pass rushing ability, largely thanks to senior linebacker Jordan Mack. He has had seven sacks in eight games this year, tied for second in the ACC. But the team captain will be out for the first half of Saturday’s game as a result of a targeting penalty in last weekend's matchup with the Cardinals. That bodes well for a Tar Heel offensive line that has given up 21 sacks this season.
Coming off a dramatic rivalry win, North Carolina will nonetheless look for another victory on Saturday to inch closer to that elusive bowl appearance – and a Coastal title for the first time since 2015.
“We’re really aware of the situation that we’re in and the opportunity that we have,” junior wide receiver Beau Corrales said. “That’s given us a lot of focus, so that’s what we’re keeping going into this game and moving forward.”
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