As North Carolina's football team trudged up the slope in front of its locker room, it was met with a derisive chanting of the "Amen Chorus." No translation was needed. It was goodbye to the No. 3 ranking, the unbeaten record and the vision of an Orange Bowl showdown with Nebraska.
Inside the locker room, Joe Conwell didn't hear the chanting. The only sounds were the shuffling of feet, the stripping of tape from grass-stained legs, and the muffling of sorrow.
"Naturally, it's really upsetting," said Conwell, a senior right tackle from Bala Cynwyd, Pa. "It will take a while to get over. The test of character of this team will be whether we'll be able to shake it off. I'm not sure whether the full extent has set in. But the test is coming now. We have to quit dwelling on the game."
Conwell threw his dark blue tie into his equipment bag, zipped up the bag, pulled on his gray jacket and walked off. "I can't talk about the game anymore."
The 28-26 loss to Maryland was, Conwell said, a "heartbreaker." North Carolina's miraculous drive with 2:18 remaining, culminating in Tyrone Anthony's touchdown, set the stage for the two-point attempt with 22 seconds showing on the scoreboard.
Tar Heels quarterback Scott Stankavage rolled right, dodged linebacker J.D. Gross' outstretched arm and heaved the ball toward Anthony. Incomplete. The Maryland fans raced like banshees onto the field.
"It was a set play," said Stankavage. "Tyrone (Anthony) was in the flat and some folks underneath. I just didn't deliver the ball. I feel bad. I missed him. I have nothing else to say."
The battery of reporters slowly receded from Stankavage's locker. In the other room, all-America defensive tackle William Fuller talked about the heady emotion in the game. "We knew they'd come out playing with a lot of emotion. We had anticipated that. They had a lot to gain and lose. We knew they had a good offense. We just couldn't stop them."
Fuller paused, as if to go on. Nothing followed.
A few minutes earlier, North Carolina Coach Dick Crum also offered few words. "I thought our kids played really hard. We had too many errors in the kicking game, plus that touchdown called back (in the second quarter, Stankavage's 21-yard pass to Earl Winfield was nullified by a holding penalty. North Carolina settled for a field goal). The game went back and forth pretty good."
The coach grumbled about the police escort to Byrd Stadium. "We had to rush through our pregame (warmups) because we got here late. The guy was driving along like it was a Sunday afternoon."
Crum may have felt like he was on the slow boat to Byrd, but he wanted to leave the stadium as if it was on fire. "No more, thank you."