Down by three at Clemson, fourth down, four yards to go and 39 seconds to play, North Carolina Coach Dick Crum had two choices: to kick an easy 31-yard field goal, which would have given the Tar Heels a tie—and a crack at the ACC title—or go for the touchdown. Crum made the honorable decision, but the pass failed. It was that kind of season for North Carolina. The Heels suffered a one-point loss to Pitt on a disputed motion call, fell by those three points at Clemson, were dropped 31-24 by Maryland and, the unkindest cut of all, were done in by a letdown at Duke. The frustration ended, though, with a 26-10 upset of Texas in the Sun Bowl that gave the Heels their fourth straight victory in postseason play and a fourth consecutive Top 20 finish.
North Carolina has lost All-America Tailback Kelvin Bryant to the USFL, but nobody in Chapel Hill is panicking. One reason is senior Tyrone Anthony, who rushed for 224 yards in the first start of his career, in 1981, and averaged 5.9 yards per carry in '82 as Bryant's backup. Anthony will share the tailback slot with junior Ethan Horton, who gained 119 yards in one half against Texas. And he's still learning. Originally a quarterback, Horton moved to tailback late in '81 after Bryant and Anthony got hurt.
The Tar Heel passing game should improve, largely because after three years under master scrambler Rod Elkins, North Carolina is adopting a spread-it-around, pro-style attack. The quarterback will be senior Scott Stankavage, who has started nearly a season's worth of games over his career while filling in for the oft-injured Elkins. Stankavage will get most of his protection from tackles Brian Blados and Joe Conwell. Blados manhandled Texas' star Defensive End Kiki DeAyala. "I don't see myself as a powerful player," he says, "but when I look at films I can sometimes see myself dominating."
"My Lord," says Stankavage, "you look at Brian give a forearm, a chip shot, and the poor guy goes flying five yards backward."
Straight-ahead Kicker Brooks Barwick, who hit 20 of 23 field-goal attempts last year, returns for the short work, and sidewinder Rob Rogers, who converted one of two, will handle the long ones. The punter will be David Lowe, 26, whose jobs before entering college included dump-truck driver, sheetrock hanger, road-service mechanic and forklift operator. He walked on at age 24, sleeping in the field house for the first few days of practice because he had no place else to stay. Lowe averaged 39.6 yards a punt in '82.
The Heels' defense, which gave up only 236.5 yards per game in 1982, the second-lowest in the country, features Tackle William Fuller, an Outland Trophy finalist. Fuller is fast (4.79 in the 40) and strong (he squats 550), and, says Crum, "When he gets into a game, everything doubles for him—he seems twice as fast, twice as strong." And he has seen nothing but double-teams since his 22 tackles behind the line of scrimmage, including nine sacks, in '81. As a result, he had just 13 and six, respectively, in '82. Last year was tough for Fuller in another respect. His father, a diabetic, was hospitalized and ended up losing his left leg. Fuller spent much of the year making the four-hour trip between Chapel Hill and Chesapeake (Va.) General Hospital. "I can't say it wore me out physically," he says, "but mentally it probably affected me."
Fuller will have help in the pit from Tackle Brian Johnston, who played center for the last half of '82 after starter Steve McGrew went down with a knee injury. The returnees in the secondary are All-ACC Strong Safety Willie Harris; Free Safety Steve Hendrickson, a chemistry major with a 3.6 average who led the Heels with three interceptions in 1982; and Cornerback Walter Black, who is attending North Carolina on a Morehead academic scholarship. The Tar Heels always seem to suffer heavy losses at linebacker—in the past four years six have gone to the NFL—but it never seems to matter. In 1982, the season after turning All-Pro Lawrence Taylor over to the Giants, North Carolina moved up three notches, from No. 8 to No. 5, in the country in points allowed.
As for the Tar Heels' schedule, it's the weakest in the Top 20. After opening against South Carolina, North Carolina takes on, in succession, Memphis State, Miami of Ohio and William and Mary. "It is going to be a real challenge to get the kids ready to play those three games," says Crum, who may also have to do a Rockne number to get his charges prepared to face such conference juggernauts as Wake Forest, Virginia and Georgia Tech. No speeches will be necessary, though, for Maryland, Clemson and Duke, the teams that made 1982 "that kind of season" for the Heels.