Originally posted on Fox Sports South  |  Last updated 10/8/11
Chapel Hill, N.C. --- Interim North Carolina football coach Everett Withers said the Tar Heels' 14-7 victory over Louisville on Saturday was good for his team. He said they needed a close game, to win a grinder, and to know going into future games that the Heels can still find ways to win even if they don't play well. Withers is right, to a degree. The thing is, North Carolina has already won a couple of ugly games on afternoons it didn't play particularly well. The 24-22 victory over Rutgers and 28-17 triumph over Virginia weren't exactly performances worthy of being used as how-to-play-the-game tutorials. Maybe if UNC hadn't made so many mistakes through its first five games Withers could get a pass on his post-game comments. But the truth is North Carolina needed a blowout victory. It needed to take care of a Cardinals' team that had already lost at home to Marshall and Florida International. (Just for the record, FIU lost at home last week to Duke). UNC needed to play a clean football game and get a lopsided win so it could build some depth and give its regulars a bit of a rest with a huge stretch of ACC games coming up. And it just needed a laugher, for the players and the fans. This program has been through a lot and put its fans through a ton over the last 15 months. The base has quickly grown apathetic, as evidenced by the 51,500 fans that showed up in 63,000-seat Kenan Stadium. Many continue protesting the firing of Butch Davis eight days before August camp began, and have sworn they won't support the program until Chancellor Holden Thorp is dismissed. Most UNC supporters, however, just want to win and see a team develop. They understand that Withers likely won't get the job full-time after UNC hires a new athletic director sometime in the next few weeks. They know better and more secure times are ahead. But they also want to see a team that is twice as talented as the opponent and has boat-loads more firepower line up and take care of business. Withers, though, sees things through a coaches' lens, as narrow as that can be at times. "I think it's important to win these types of games," he said. "At halftime, I think we grew up sa little bit. I don't want us to be playing our best ball right now. I want us to be playing our best ball as we start getting ready in this ACC stretch." But that stretch begins with a visit from Miami next week and then a trip to No. 8 Clemson. Carolina, which has been sloppy at times on offense and has bent a heck of a lot on defense, needed this final tune-up for league play to run much smoother than it did. With five minutes left in the first half, Louisville had 11 first downs to Carolina's one and had run 36 pays to UNC's 11. By halftime, the Cards had run 41 plays to UNC's 18. But Louisville showed its true colors by constantly biting itself: two missed field goal and an interception in the red zone ended three of its possessions. And by the time UNC woke up and got some of its offense going in the second half, the Cards essentially wilted. Louisville proved to be the team most expected to see, and Carolina proved it's a 5-1 club that has a lot more work to do than the record suggests. "On a scale of 1 to 10 I'd say we're an 8 right now," UNC wide receiver Erik Highsmith said. "We are good but we can get better." It can, and should become an eight. And it must happen from this point on, as there aren't any more Louisvilles on the schedule, and there are no more excuses, either.
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