- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 20, 2008

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. | T.J. Yates is trying not to focus too much on the significance of North Carolina’s home game with Virginia Tech.

He knows it’s the Tar Heels‘ first ACC game and that the Hokies are the defending league champions. But he’s not dwelling on the fact that Saturday is widely viewed as a measuring-stick game for a team that is trying to prove its recent years of struggle are in the past.

“Everybody knows how big of a game it is,” said Yates, the Tar Heels’ sophomore quarterback. “We’re trying not to worry much about what’s going on outside this football center. We’re trying to stay as focused as possible. We’re not exactly trying to think like it’s another game, but we’re not trying to think of it as any more than a game.”

Regardless, the matchup certainly gives Tar Heel fans reason for excitement. North Carolina (2-0) hasn’t been nationally relevant since Mack Brown’s departure for Texas a decade ago, and the hiring of Butch Davis before last season was the kind of big-name coach the Tar Heels have hoped for since. Now they’re coming off a road rout of Rutgers - their most impressive performance in several years - and have the home-field advantage in a matchup of the ACC’s Coastal Division favorites.

At the least, the game against Virginia Tech (2-1, 1-0) offers a glimpse of whether the Tar Heels have really arrived.

“At some point in time, when we’ll be good is when the players take ownership of the team, when it is so important to the players that it’s their football team,” Davis said. “It’s not Butch Davis’ football team. … It is their team. And they, to a large extent, have to decide how good they want to be by how much they’re willing to pay the price and be good.”

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