Both were losses, and nothing can change the bottom line, but North Carolina senior Mike Ingersoll remembers the Tar Heels' past two bowl trips fondly.
Perhaps it was the three-year absence by the program from the bowl season, but there's something special about UNC's bowl trips to Ingersoll, one of 17 seniors who will line up for the last time for the Tar Heels on Thursday against Tennessee at the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tenn.
UNC lost to Pittsburgh, 19-17, in last year's Meineke Bowl in Charlotte and to West Virginia, 31-30, in 2008 in Charlotte. But both games, were "fun," Ingersoll said.
"I wish the outcomes were different, but those games were fun," said Ingersoll, UNC's right tackle. "Neither game was boring, that's for sure."
Both games were memorable. Last year's game came down to the final minute, with Pittsburgh's Dan Hutchins hitting a 33-yard field with 52 seconds left to give the Panthers a hard-fought win in a game between similar, defensive-minded teams.
The 2008 bowl was the "Hakeem Nicks Show" with the UNC receiver putting on a record-breaking performance with eight catches for 217 yards and three touchdowns. West Virginia quarterback Pat White one-upped Nicks, though, with 332 passing yards and three touchdown passes for the win.
"Both of those losses were hard for us," senior safety Deunta Williams said.
Williams pointed out the success the senior class has had at UNC. After a 4-8 start in '07, UNC has posted three straight winning seasons. With a win over the Volunteers (6-6), UNC would finish with eight wins, same as the '08 and '09 seasons.
Given the personnel turnover and impact of the NCAA investigation, which claimed seven players for the season and 14 total players for at least one game, Williams said that matching last year's win total would be an accomplishment for this team.
"No one thought we could be as good as last year after everything that happened," Williams said.
UNC has taken more personnel hits since the regular season ended.
The school announced Monday that running back Anthony Elzy will not play "after failing to meet his obligations as a student-athlete at UNC," according to a release sent out by the school.
The school previously announced that left guard Alan Pelc (left shoulder) and linebacker Bruce Carter (left knee) would miss the game after undergoing surgery.
Those are just the latest personnel setbacks that have derailed a season where UNC expected to challenge for the ACC title and even had designs on a national title.
Even if the Music City Bowl is not what UNC had in mind when the season began, Williams said, it's important for the senior class to add any bowl win to its résumé and go out on a winning note.
"This class had great expectations, and some of our goals were never met," Williams said. "Some of it is sad, and kind of annoying, but we have accomplished a lot."
Ingersoll expects to have fun again in Thursday's game against the Volunteers. He does know one way to make it more fun.
"We need to go out with a win," Ingersoll said. "This is the last memory of the season, and for the seniors, it's the last memory of our careers."
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