… This one’s for North Carolina, come on and raise up
Take your shirt off, twist it ’round your hand
Spin it like a helicopter
North Carolina, come on and raise up
This one’s for you? Uh-uh
This one’s for who? Us, us, us
Most of you probably won’t recognize the lyrics above, but some of you will. They’re from Petey Pablo’s 2001 rap anthem “Raise Up”, and because I graduated from Pitt right around that time, they tend to run through my head every time we play the Tarheels.
During my senior year, in 2000, 5-2 Pitt hosted 3-5 North Carolina at Three Rivers. It was a heck of a game. David Priestly and John Turman combined for 344 yards and two touchdowns through the air and future NFL running back Kevan Barlow averaged 5.1 yards per carry on 17 totes of the rock. The game came down to the wire as I remember, and as the shadows lengthened that afternoon, it was pretty obvious that Pitt could move the ball on the ground, but for some reason Walt Harris continued to go back to the pass. If you were there you already know the punchline: Pitt lost 17-20. On the drive home my exasperated roommate summed it up as only an undergraduate could: “You just don’t dump a girl that’s treating you good”. Given that Turman and Priestly completed only 46% of their passes and were sacked seven or eight times, I think everyone in the car agreed. (Although in hindsight Pitt lost three fumbles and were penalized eight times for 66 yards, so that may have had something to do with the playcalling.)
Since then Pitt has played UNC eight times and won exactly twice. Once in 2009, and once again ten years later. In between was a litany of close games that have frustrated the Panther Faithful to a similar degree as that year-2000 contest. Here is a list of the six losses.
- In 2018 2-1 Pitt lost to 0-2 UNC by three in Chapel Hill
- In 2017 4-5 Pitt lost to 1-8 UNC by three at home
- In 2016 2-1 Pitt lost to 2-1 UNC by one on the road. UNC scored 14 in the fourth quarter. Pitt scored three.
- In 2015 then-number-23 (6-1) Pitt lost to a 6-1 UNC team at home. Pitt didn’t re-enter the top 25 that year.
- In 2014 a 4-5 Pitt team jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter down in Chapel Hill and went on to lose the game by 5 (UNC was also 4-5 going into the game).
- In 2013 a 4-5 Pitt team more or less got boat-raced by UNC for three quarters at Heinz, before scoring 17 points in the fourth quarter to tie the game, and then ultimately losing by 7 on a Ryan Switzer punt return with 4:46 left.
So again, to sum it up, Pitt lost six games in a row lost by a touchdown or less, often to a UNC team with an inferior record.
I hate to say it, but the stage is set again. A 7-2, nationally ranked Pitt team will be hosting an underachieving UNC team at Heinz. The line is Pitt by six and a hook. ESPN’s computer gives us a 76% chance of victory. UNC has scored 34 points or more in their last five with wins over then-number-9 Wake Forest and (Panther-Slayer) Miami. Pitt is physically battered and coming off of a tougher-than-expected road win against Duke. Pitt’s control of their own ACC destiny hangs in the balance. So yes…North Carolina may well raise up indeed. Here’s to hoping they don’t.
Hail to Pitt