FB Countdown: No. 16
THI continues our series counting down the 20 best football teams in UNC history. We will run these Monday through Friday over a four-week stretch. Next month, we will do the top 30 UNC basketball teams of all-time.
We would love to know what you think, so agree or disagree, lets have some fun with this.
No. 16 - 1979
Record: 8-3-1 (3-3)
Bowl: Gator Bowl, beat Michigan 17-15
Coach: Dick Crum
All-Americans: Ricky Barden (DB); Ron Wooten (G)
What's To Know: Rarely does a team that finishes .500 in league play go down in history, but that's exactly the case with the '79 Heels. This was actually quite a talented group with Amos Lawrence and Doug Paschal carrying the load, a terrific offensive line, and Lawrence Taylor, Buddy Curry, Ricky Barden, Darrell Nicholson, Calvin Daniels and the unforgettable Steve Streater (also its punter) on defense. But a tough mid-season stretch that followed an extremely impressive 4-0 start appeared to doom the team's potential.
Carolina opened with convincing wins over South Carolina (28-0), No. 13 Pittsburgh (17-7), at Army (41-3) and 35-14 over Cincinnati. The win over Pitt raised expectations, as the Panthers had national title aspirations and eventually finished 11-1 and ranked No. 7 on the nation. Thirty years after that game, an article in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette was written about that loss, and one player was quoted as saying UNC was like "a fly on the shoulder" Pitt should have swatted, and another said if they played the game 100 times Pitt would "win 99 times."
Well, after a mid-season slump that included losses to Wake Forest, Maryland and Clemson and a tie versus East Carolina (though the Heels did manage a win at No. 15 NC State), the UNC closed strong and eventually beat an overconfident Michigan team in the Gator Bowl. The Tar Heels notched three wins over ranked teams, with the win over the Wolverines backing up the earlier victory over Pitt and raising awareness of the burgeoning UNC program.
Here's a link to a video of LT sacking the QB in the 1979 Gator Bowl