CHAPEL HILL — Last year there was so much red in North Carolinas locker room that some players walked in and thought it had been vandalized. It was the Sunday before the Tar Heels game against N.C. State, and Bryn Renner, the UNC quarterback, said then that it looked like someone went to Party City for decorations.
The decorations were a little more subdued on Sunday, linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said, but UNC players once again arrived on the Sunday before their game against the Wolfpack to find a good amount of red inside the locker room. This time, defensive end Kareem Martin said, there were plenty of red Our State signs with the N.C. State logo.
N.C. State has used the Our State slogan for a while now. Its on billboards and other signage.
And for a little while, it was inside the UNC locker room, serving as a motivational prop.
Thats something thats motivating guys, but you dont really need to motivate guys anymore, after what happened last year and (before that) they had the five in a row. It doesnt take much to motivate these guys to beat this team.
Last year, of course, UNC ended a five-game losing streak against N.C. State, and did so in dramatic fashion with Giovani Bernards game-winning punt return for a touchdown in the final moments. The moment Bernard crossed the goal line represented the release of five years of frustration and agony for the Tar Heels in this rivalry.
Larry Fedora, UNCs second-year head coach, has made a habit of counting down to games against the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels werent eligible for the postseason last year, and so the victory against N.C. State was the high point of the season.
Fedora was asked today about how often during the offseason he heard from fans about Bernards return.
Probably not as much as I heard before about what needed to be done, Fedora said. I heard a lot more before, I can assure you.
Fedora, by the way, didnt take any credit for decorating the UNC locker room last year, and he pleaded ignorance about the most recent interior design job.
Somebody did (decorate it), he said. But I promise you I didnt.