UNC Beat: Zach Evans, Comeback Engineer

You can thank me for that second half against Louisville, Tar Heel fans.

I was not in Chapel Hill this past weekend. Instead, I returned to my home in Johnston County for the weekend, with various members of my mother’s family visiting.

Friday, there was much carrying on, joking about, all the normal things you do when family visits. However, the family had been in town for the whole week, so Saturday was a day of rest for them.  This was convenient, since I had no desire to yell at a TV in front of cousins I hadn’t seen in years, especially the one cousin who graduated from NC State.

So it came to pass that at approximately 3:20 PM ET on Saturday, September 15, 2012, I assumed the position in my bedroom to watch the Tar Heels and Cardinals play football.

The next 90 minutes were really the stuff of legend, if by legend we, of course, mean nightmare.  Multiple Twitter followers suggested sending someone to check on my well-being.  This was probably slight exaggeration on their part, seeing as my childhood was blessed with the coaching tenures of both John Bunting and Matt Doherty, but it’s good to know they care.

Ultimately, I decided there was only one way to ensure this beautiful Saturday didn’t go wasted: After Bryn Renner’s 44-yard pass touchdown pass to Romar Morris broke up Louisville’s 29-0 shutout with 6:19 remaining in the second quarter, I had seen enough.  I tweeted “Actually, I think I’ll turn it off now. Keep a happy picture in my mind,” then left for nearby Southern National Motorsports Park for the evening. I like auto racing, what can I say?

Of course, you know how the rest of the story goes.  North Carolina outscored Louisville 27-3 in the second half, allowing them one last chance to knock off the Cardinals on the road. I felt my phone vibrating repeatedly around 6:45 PM, and I really didn’t have to look at the text messages to know exactly what I was missing.

Anyone who knows me will tell you I’m not traditionally one of “those” people.  I stayed in Kenan for the entirety of “NC State 41, North Carolina 10” back in 2008.  I didn’t stop watching games during those previously mentioned lean years, or bail during basketball games in 2009-10.  I laugh regularly at people who overreact to the first couple of series of a game and declare it over when a team takes an early lead.

But I fell for the trap Saturday, and I needed to make that confession.  It goes without saying that I have learned from my mistake, and will make no similar missteps for the remainder of the season.  If this team can make a game out of a 29-0 Louisville head start, then no contest will be out of reach.

That said, if they fall behind by double digits against East Carolina Saturday, I may slip out. Better safe than sorry, you know? Take one for the team, right?

HOLDEN OUT FOR A HERO?: I come not to bury Holden Thorp, but to praise him.  As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, the chancellor will resign from his post, effective at the end of this academic year.  As you may recall, I was quite critical of UNC’s administration during my maiden post here at Inside The ACC. While Thorp was not named specifically in that piece, he likely deserves some of the blame for what I pointed out there.  He also deserves some of the credit for guiding the University towards a better future.

By any reasonable measure, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has thrived under Thorp’s leadership.  Applications are up, federal research funding has increased significantly, and the faculty’s response to his resignation demonstrates a clearly passionate support for him from those in the academic community.

He will be remembered by most as the man responsible for not properly handling the crises that surrounded the football program in recent years.  That is the nature of the beast in today’s collegiate landscape: It’s often been said that athletics are the front porch to a university, and few front porches are more well-known than the one in Chapel Hill.

However, I will remember him as my chancellor for four years here at this university, through the good and the bad.  Yeah, that sounds hokey, but maybe I have a little more Roy Williams in me than I care to admit.  I will remember how it felt watching that press conference on July 28, 2011, and it wasn’t good. But I’ll also remember being welcomed to UNC by him at New Student Convocation, along with thousands of my new closest friends.  I’ll remember him trash-talking Duke on Twitter.  And I’ll remember that he can play a keyboard and solve a Rubik’s cube better than I.

I’m not smart enough to know if Thorp is right or wrong when he says his resignation is best for the University: Only time and hindsight will provide that answer.  I, too, wish the best for this priceless gem moving forward, and if that requires a change of leadership, so be it.  But I also wish Thorp well in his future endeavors and in life.  And, perhaps selfishly, I hope that he’ll take up the Clef Hangers on that offer to sing with them after he returns to the Chemistry department.

ZACH’S THREE* STARS FOR THE WEEK

First Star – Bryn Renner: One week after rampant discussion of whether or not he had the wind knocked out of his head against Wake Forest, Renner returned with his first career five-touchdown game in a come-from-behind attempt.  The conclusion was eerily similar to that of North Carolina’s contest against LSU in 2010, but that turned out to be a decent year for T.J. Yates.  We’ll see if Renner can replicate similar success moving forward.

Second Star – Romar Morris: Morris was ACC Receiver of the Week, which is pretty doggone impressive for a running back.  Morris was the recipient of both a 44 and a 50 yard touchdown strike, stepping in for a bevy of injured Tar Heel wide receivers.

Third Star – Amber Brooks, Scott Goodwin: Brooks and Goodwin were named as candidates for the women’s and men’s soccer Lowe’s Senior CLASS awards Tuesday. In the 2011-12 academic year, Tar Heels Kaylie Gibson (volleyball) and Tyler Zeller (basketball) were finalists for the award in their respective sports.

Fourth Star – You: Yes, I’m cheating.  If you’ve gotten this far, thank you for reading what will hopefully be my only contribution to Inside The ACC with such liberal use of the first person.  You come here to read about people far more interesting and athletically gifted than me, and I didn’t forget that this week.  So come back next week, where hopefully I’ll talk more about Renner and Larry Fedora and Kevin Reddick and less about Zach Evans.


Zach Evans is brilliantZach Evans is a student at the University of North Carolina and a lifelong fan of the Tar Heels and follower of the ACC. Outside of the ACC, Zach is also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Carolina Panthers, and bad puns. He includes nailing the Final Four in his 2009 NCAA Tournament group and batting .000 during the 2011 intramural softball season among his crowning achievements. For more commentary, follow Zach on Twitter at @ztevans.

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