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One last splash

Davenport hopes to end college career on up note

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Posted: Friday December 18, 1998 10:57 PM

  Missing out: Davenport has started only 13 games in four years because of injury problems Craig Jones/Allsport

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- Oscar Davenport, normally full of levity, sat stoically and answered questions about North Carolina's upcoming bowl game against San Diego State in barely audible tones.

Maybe it was a week of final exams that had the senior quarterback in a serious mood, or maybe he was reflecting on his once promising career that was turned sour once again in 1998 by an injury and one-game suspension.

"I don't feel cheated, this has all made me a stronger person," Davenport said of his injury-riddled career as he and the Tar Heels (6-5) prepare to play the Aztecs (7-4) Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl.

"I've had my ups and downs. I've had some good games, but everything is not always going to be great, you are not always going to get an 11-1 season."

Or a healthy one, for that matter.

The 6-foot-4, 200-pound Davenport has the highest pass completion percentage (59.9 percent) and lowest interception rate in North Carolina football history, yet has started only 13 games in four years.

He is an impressive 10-3 in that role, but two of his seasons were cut short by serious injuries (knee in '95 and broken ankle in '97) and he started 1998 on the shelf after four plays with another knee injury.

Davenport also missed the Wake Forest game in mid-season after being suspended by coach Carl Torbush for a violation of team rules.

"I just had to be strong and keep fighting," Davenport said of his season and roller-coaster career. "This has been a life-learning experience to never give up, stay strong and you can overcome.

"It made me realize that I don't make all the decisions. I learned how to cope with whatever decision is out there."

The senior and coaching staff still refuse to divulge the reason for the disciplinary action, but Torbush made it clear this week that Davenport had to earn his way back as the starter.

"He understands that I have been very hard on him since the situation during the season," Torbush said.

"He is under a microscope from me, from his teammates and everybody else. You make a mistake, you try to forget and forgive, but you still have to earn [that respect] back. But there is no doubt the success he has had the last two games has us where we are now."

Davenport, the MVP in the 1997 Gator Bowl, made good on his final chance, helping defeat arch-rivals Duke and N.C. State in the stretch run that landed the Tar Heels in their school-record seventh straight bowl game.

His three TD passes against the Wolfpack on November 28 were a career high and Davenport has been intercepted only once in his last 139 pass attempts spanning six games.

"I wanted everybody to know that I was still a leader and that everybody makes mistakes," Davenport said of his return to the lineup.

And how about another MVP award to close out his up-and-down career?

"It's not about being the MVP, I just want to get the win," he said.

 
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