All Vols excited to battle UNC
Posted: Monday, December 27, 2010 3:17 pm
By: UT Sports Information
The fans wanted it and soon enough, they will get it.
Tennessee began practice in Nashville on Sunday, five days before facing North Carolina in the Music City Bowl on Thursday (5:30 p.m., ESPN).
The two teams, of course, were scheduled for a home-and-home series beginning next season. When that was cancelled, fans reiterated their desire to see the schools play on the football field, and both administrations wanted it, too.
The teams have a history, competing 31 previous times on the field starting in 1893. They played every year from 1945-1961, and Tennessee holds a 20-10-1 edge in the series. Thanks to the Music City Bowl matchup, the border battle will be revived.
“We’re playing a great opponent,” Tennessee head coach Derek Dooley said. “It’s as talented a team as I’ve seen all year on film. Very talented. Great coaches. Went through a lot of adversity that affected their results, but they did a great job to overcome it.”
North Carolina comes into the bowl game with a 7-5 record, having gone through the ACC with a 4-4 mark and finishing third in the Coastal Division of the conference. The Tar Heels’ signature victory on the season was a 37-35 upset at Florida State.
North Carolina’ signature loss, however, was off the field.
The Tar Heels began the season ranked No. 18 with lofty conference and national expectations after the year they had in 2009. Things were quickly squashed as the NCAA investigated potential academic violations and possible improper relationships between student-athletes and agents. In a proactive response, North Carolina benched 13 key players for its opener against LSU, including six defensive starters (including its entire secondary), its leading wide receiver and its top two running backs.
As the season unfolded, the question hovered above the Tar Heels as to what this team could have done had the investigation not lingered.
Five players have been dismissed from the team, four have been ruled permanently ineligible by the NCAA, and associate head coach John Blake resigned as his name became affiliated with the investigation. In all, 16 players have missed at least one game due to their link to the investigation and UNC is waiting for the NCAA’s ultimate response.
North Carolina head coach Butch Davis and his team, however, pressed onward.
Seven Tar Heels were named to the All-ACC team as either first team, second team or honorable mention.
“They had a lot of guys missing, but it’s incredible how deep they are with a lot of good skill players that, when they were hurting at the beginning of the season, they still had great players behind them,” said UT linebacker Nick Reveiz.
A pretty stellar passing game doesn’t hurt either.
The Tar Heels averaged 266.5 yards per game through the air.
Defensively, UNC gives up 22.9 points, but just two of its losses were lopsided.
“I don’t know a whole lot about North Carolina, but I do know they have a very balanced defense,” said UT tight end Luke Stocker. “They’re a very good football team. Their record doesn’t speak to how good they are. You look across their depth chart and they have a lot of talented players across their defense. We’re going to have our work cut out for us.”
With UNC’s depth, talent and potent offense, yes, a task awaits the Vols. The Tar Heels have stared at adversity and moved on despite the cloud of an NCAA ruling that lingers. Yet that off-field concern isn’t going to make a tackle or throw a touchdown, and the Vols know that.
“Who wouldn’t want this game to be played?” Reveiz said. “We’re very excited about it.”