Larry Fedora, Bryn Renner and UNC will attempt to snap a two-game losing streak today. ROBERT WILLETT
CHAPEL HILL — And welcome to Kenan Stadium, ladies and gentlemen, where in a little more than an hour North Carolina will host East Carolina in an old-fashioned in-state college football rivalry game. No, this isn’t UNC vs. N.C. State or even UNC and Duke.
But there’s a certain element of rivalry at play when the Tar Heels and Pirates meet, no?
As I walked the few blocks from my apartment into the stadium today, Ramses rode by on South Rd. He was not driving. His presence, though, contributed to the overall vibe outside of Kenan, where fans began walking up and down Franklin Street hours ago. I’m expecting a much more vibrant crowd than what we saw here for the Tar Heels’ season-opener against Elon.
Onto the game …
If you haven’t already, be sure to read my story from today about what this series means for both UNC and ECU. For UNC, it’s another chance to establish in-state dominance. For ECU, it’s a chance to earn a program-building win. But what will become of this series beyond next season? Both Larry Fedora and Ruffin McNeill spoke on that.
Some pregame thoughts and observations:
--UNC RB Giovani Bernard is on the cover of the Heels’ game program. Now we get to see if he’ll be on the field. Bernard has sat out the past two games with an apparent lingering knee injury that he suffered in the season-opener against Elon.
--We’ll see two variations of the spread offense today. By now you know what Fedora wants UNC’s spread to look like. The version that ECU runs is different, but the principles of stretching the defense horizontally to create vertical seams remains the same. Maybe UNC’s defense performs better against a familiar offense.
--Very intrigued to see how the Tar Heels start today. They were awful at the start a week ago at Louisville, where the Cardinals built a 36-7 halftime lead. UNC stormed back and nearly won the game. Can UNC build on that second-half performance and get off to a good start today?
--There’s a guy from the Orange Bowl here. Why? I don’t know. UNC isn’t eligible for a bowl, and I don’t think ECU is much on the Orange’s radar. This isn’t a knock on UNC’s bowl ineligibility, by the way. But rather another example of college football’s wasteful, bloated bowl system.
--And this, from columnist Luke DeCock: Pregame entertainment was provided by someone who was once part of the in-game entertainment. Before the game, former North Carolina linebacker Chase Rice, now a country singer, performed songs from his album "Dirt Road Communion" in the new outdoor amphitheater outside the west end of Kenan Stadium.
All right … almost game time.