Larry Fedora and his players have been counting down the days until the N.C. State game. CHUCK LIDDY
CHAPEL HILL — Larry Fedora has twice made it clear, publicly, that he has been counting down the days until North Carolina’s game against N.C. State. You might recall a post right here, back in late April, that detailed Fedora’s comments to a group of UNC boosters in Charlotte.
At that booster club appearance, a member of the audience asked Fedora how much emphasis he’d place on the Tar Heels’ games against the Wolfpack. Fedora said, “There’s going to be an emphasis.” But he also said, “I don’t want to talk about [the rivalry] too much because I don’t want to legitimize their program.”
But even then, Fedora got it. He sensed the frustration from UNC fans about the Tar Heels’ recent futility in the rivalry. The Heels have lost five consecutive games against the Wolfpack. UNC has never lost six consecutive against N.C. State.
“It’s 184 days from today,” Fedora said then, on April 26, about his team’s Oct. 27 game against N.C. State.
Now, counting today, it’s only five days away. Fedora’s long countdown is nearly over. I wrote about that, and the buildup for this game, in a story that ran in the paper today.
The stakes for both teams are clear enough. With a victory, N.C. State, which controls its own destiny in the ACC’s Atlantic Division, can both make history and move another step closer in its pursuit of earning a place in the conference championship game. UNC can’t go to a bowl game and, technically, can’t win the Coastal Division. But a victory on Saturday would bring a much-desired end to a much-despised losing streak.
Fedora said the importance of UNC’s game against N.C. State was made clear to him from his first day on the job.
“It’s a big rivalry game,” he said. “Obviously. That’s been pointed out to me since my first handshake when I took the job. And it is – again, like I’ve said before, it’s what makes college football so great. Is the fans and the pageantry – the regional rivalries. So yeah, this is a big game.”
What did people tell him from that first handshake?
“That that’s the game,” Fedora said. “That’s the game you’ve got to focus on, that’s the game you’ve got to win. I mean, we all know that every game is important because you don’t base your season on one game. But you also understand the importance of the game because of the rivalry.”
And how long was it before someone brought up the five-game losing streak to Fedora?
“It might have been on that first handshake,” he said. “I don’t really remember. It’s been a one-sided situation for the last five years. So that’s something that obviously our guys are aware of and our fans are very much aware of. So I think everybody in the program is aware of it and what has to be done.”
The time for Fedora and his team has nearly arrived. The countdown is in its final days.