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September 25, 2009North Carolina has a chance to end two dreadful streaks this weekend at Georgia Tech---not winning in Atlanta since 1997, and not winning an Atlantic Coast Conference season opener since 2000.
"Clearly at this stage you want to win every game, whether it's an ACC game or not. Once you start winning you want to play well and keep winning," said UNC head coach Butch Davis
While statistics such as 12 years without a win in Atlanta and nine years without a win in an ACC opener are great fodder for reporters, the Tar Heel players themselves aren't overly concerning themselves with these facts.
In fact, most of the ones we asked didn't even know that UNC hasn't won at Georgia Tech since 1997.
"I didn't know that, but I don't think that (not winning in Atlanta in 12 years) has any significance on it to us. It's just we want to take this game one game at a time," said senior offensive tackle Kyle Jolly, who was 10 years old the last time UNC prevailed at Bobby Dodd Stadium. "It's the next opponent, so we want to get our head on straight and be ready to go on Saturday."
"I haven't really thought about as far as the last time we were down there (in Atlanta back in 2007) or back in '97, because the last time we went down there, that's a whole different team---whole different offense, quarterback, running back---a lot of things are different down there," said junior cornerback Kendric Burney.
"I didn't even know that until I was getting some cleats the other day and the equipment manager told me that. He was like, 'Yeah, they haven't won down there (since 1997)," said junior running back Shaun Draughn. "I guess it's the sort of thing like going to Virginia. You've just got to play every week, one game at a time, and hopefully we can come out with this 'W'."
Jolly and teammate T.J. Yates were also unaware of the fact that UNC hasn't prevailed in an ACC opener since beating Wake Forest in Winston-Salem back in 2000.
"I didn't know that, either," said Jolly. "I didn't realize that. I guess we've just got to get in the younger guys' heads and let them know that the ACC schedule is a little bit different, so we've got to try to crank it up a little bit, get more in the film room and get everything right so if someone does go down they (their replacement) can be able to come in with no questions asked."
"I did not know that," said Yates. "We'll let them (our younger teammates) know some of the things that we need to accomplish going into this week."
"It's big. It's our first game in ACC play," Yates added. "It's always a little bit different than non-conference. It gets a little bit more intense. It means a lot more than the non-conference games. So it's going to be a different feel and it's going to be a good atmosphere in Atlanta. We're all really excited."
"We're definitely looking forward to the first conference game, and this is what you really work for," said Burney. "You work for the out-of-conference games, but when it comes to conference championships, this is the first stepping stone. We're definitely jacked up about this. The practices have been jacked up. The weather has been down but the guys have been jacked up, and we're definitely looking forward to our first ACC opponent."
"ACC games are important," said Coach Davis. "This conference, and especially our side of it, is loaded. We felt that way before the season ever started that Georgia Tech, coming off nine wins, and Virginia Tech, and Miami would be dramatically improved. I think the whole conference is tougher, but you want to get off to a good start. Hopefully we'll play better in week four than week three."
"It (getting a win) can definitely boost us up in the ACC of course. They (Georgia Tech) have already got a loss in the ACC, so that would give us a good start as far as conference play," added Draughn. "I know their crowd will be hyped up like any other team we go to. I just feel like we've got to shut them up early, you know, hit them in the mouth first, hold onto the ball, just get long drives and start fast."
"I think it would be big for us (to win)," said junior linebacker Quan Sturdivant. "It's a road game. We need to play good on the road to be successful this year. I think it would be good for us to go down and get a win against a good team."
"Basically everybody is playing and trying to get to the ACC Championship, so it's a lot more on the line and everybody is going to bring their 'A' game," said junior safety Da'Norris Searcy.
Although the Tar Heel players know that Georgia Tech is going to throw everything at their disposal them in order to try to keep the long streaks going for another year, North Carolina's seasoned veterans believe they indeed have a great shot of going to Atlanta and ending their collective runs of bad luck.
"We've got our work cut out for us, but I believe the way our defense has been playing we're up for the task, but we've got to work hard," said Burney. "We've just got to work hard all the way up to Saturday to be ready for this team."
"We're very ready. We're confident," said Searcy. "Our confidence has grown over the last three games, so going into conference play we're ready."
"So far this year we're 3-0 for the first time in a couple of years," said Yates. "In the year's past we might have fallen into some of those traps with the records and all that stuff, but I think we're definitely more mature as a team. We're a little more grown up, and I think we'll take care of business (on Saturday)."