In the emotion-charged aftermath of Virginia's loss to Georgia Tech last weekend - a loss that cost the Cavaliers the nation's No. 1 ranking and shattered the dream of a lifetime - the players were understandably distraught.
``I don't know how we'll respond to this,' wide receiver Herman Moore said. ``We could end up losing the next three games.'But the North Carolina football team - which hosts Virginia at noon Saturday - isn't expecting anything but the Cavaliers' best effort in that regionally televised game.
One of those Tar Heels, junior cornerback Doxie Jordan, can empathize with the Virginia players. He quarterbacked a high school team with high aspirations only to see those hopes dashed by a tie.
``I was young then,' Jordan recalled. ``But I know I was eager to go back the next game and show how good we really were.
``I think a lot of people are expecting Virginia to come in here flat. But I think we'll see the best in them.'
UNC coach Mack Brown agrees. In fact, he goes a step farther in analyzing the affect the defeat might have on the Cavaliers as they prepare for Saturday's game.
``I think that their losing is probably the worst thing that could have happened to us,' Brown said. ``They might have relaxed if they were still number one and had beaten Georgia Tech.
``But now they'll come in here about half mad and ready to prove that they should be ranked higher and ready to make sure another Atlantic Coast Conference team is in a New Year's Day bowl.'
As if they needed any more motivation, with such a bowl bid, the Cavaliers, now 7-1, can still finish with the best record in school history. Only UNC, Maryland and Virginia Tech stand in the way of that goal.
The Cavaliers will bring an explosive offense into Kenan Stadium Saturday, an offense in which ``the talent is as good as anyone is playing with in the country,' Brown said. But the primary catalysts are quarterback Shawn Moore, who is being touted for the Heisman Trophy, and Herman Moore.
By Tuesday afternoon, news of an injury to Herman Moore had reached Chapel Hill. The 6-foot-5 junior sprained both of his big toes in the first period of the loss to Georgia Tech. He had been unable to practice and said 'there's a good chance I won't' play against UNC.
``We were just in the locker room talking about that,' said Jordan, a Virginia native. ``Someone said their mother called and said he wasn't going to play. But I'm sure he'll be in there on Saturday.'
Jordan says the Tar Heel secondary doesn't expect to shut Herman Moore down should he, in fact, be cleared to play. The Danville native, who caught nine passes for 234 yards against then-16th ranked Georgia Tech, is simply too talented for that to happen.
``You just have to try to slow him down,' Jordan said. ``You want to eliminate the big plays on his part. I have watched a lot of film on him. He is a deep threat with that deceptive speed or he can catch a short pass and turn it into a long gain.
``Their offense is just so versatile and so flexible. They're going to make some big plays. But we're going to try to slow him down and limit his success.'
Discovering a way to limit the success of that Moore-to-Moore combination has been of prime concern for the UNC coaching staff since last Saturday's disappointing loss to Clemson.
``Our staff sat down Monday and tried to figure out what we needed to do to beat Virginia,' Brown said. ``We decided we need to score somewhere between 45 and 65 points. Some might say that's facetious. But no one has stopped Virginia's offense this year.'
Not that Brown is conceding defeat - quite the contrary. But his improved Heels, now 5-3-1, will have to play near-flawless football to upset the talented Cavs.
``In college football with the parity and the numbers, anything can happen,' Brown said. ``We could win the football game. But we've got to play our best and they've got to help us. That doesn't happen often at this stage of the season with an experienced team.
``And another thing that has happened to our football team is that we've played hard enough and well enough that we're not going to catch any team flat anymore. So we need to play a perfect game and not make mistakes.'