CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) -It hasn't taken long for Butch Davis to get into North Carolina's rivalry with North Carolina State.
``The fans are right on top of each other,'' the second-year coach said. ``I was mad at some people dressed in red at the (grocery store) last night.''
About a half-hour east on Interstate 40, N.C. State running back Andre Brown can feel it, too.
``You can just see it that even after the whistle's blown how people are still driving and still trying to physically beat the guy down,'' Brown said.
The angst that comes with the latest meeting of longtime instate rivals offers a simple motivation heading Saturday. It sure beats dwelling on the big picture, whether it's the 25th-ranked Tar Heels' chances of somehow winning the Atlantic Coast Conference's muddled Coastal Division race or the Wolfpack's need to win its last two games to become bowl eligible.
ts own fate in the division before last weekend's 17-15 loss at Maryland. The Tar Heels got a boost with Miami's loss to Georgia Tech on Thursday night, but they still need Virginia and Virginia Tech to lose at least once. Both the Cavaliers and Hokies are 3-3 in the league, but they have beaten the Tar Heels to earn the head-to-head tiebreakers.
Ask Davis anything about that scenario and his answer usually falls into the ``one game at a time'' category.
``You don't look at the landscape,'' he said. ``I don't follow all the other schools. We can't control anybody else. We worry about how we play and how we prepare and if we do like we're supposed to, the future will take care of itself.''
That leaves the Tar Heels to focus on regrouping from the disappointing loss to the Terrapins in which they missed a 28-yard field goal and went 1-for-11 on third-down conversions. They've managed to bounce back after their close losses to Virginia Tech and Virginia, getting solid performances from one-time third-stringer Cameron Sexton at quarterback.
But after Sexton's shaky day at Maryland, Davis opened the competition between Sexton and T.J. Yates, the starter who went down with an ankle injury against the Hokies. Davis said it likely would be a gametime decision.
Sexton had won four of six starts since Yates' injury.
n go in and the team's going to back either one 100 percent,'' fullback Bobby Rome said. ``It's pretty much who gives us the best chance to win and that's what the coaching staff is going to do. I'm backing whoever goes out there.''
The Wolfpack (4-6, 2-4) has no such uncertainty at quarterback. Redshirt freshman Russell Wilson has given N.C. State a mobile passer who can extend plays with his feet and has avoided crushing mistakes. He has thrown for nine touchdowns and no interceptions in the past five games, leading N.C. State to wins against Duke and Wake Forest in the past two weeks.
N.C. State has also improved as it got healthier. Linebacker Nate Irving has returned after missing almost four games and had 11 tackles last week to lead the defense. In addition, Brown and Jamelle Eugene - who missed the first three games - have formed a solid 1-2 rushing attack.
The Wolfpack won last year's game, which was the first meeting of Davis and N.C. State coach Tom O'Brien at the rival programs. They both took over in late 2006, and last year's game came down to the Wolfpack making a fourth-and-goal stop in the final seconds of a 31-27 win. Eugene ran for a career-high 159 yards and three touchdowns in the game, including the winning score with 1:41 left.
Just as last year, the Wolfpack know a loss will end its bowl hopes.
also play each and every week for having an extra game, and that's the bowl game. We want to keep on winning and at the end of the season be 6-6, and we hope we're going to make it to a bowl.''
That said, N.C. State fans might be able to stomach missing a bowl if the Wolfpack beats the Davis and the Tar Heels again.
``It's exciting to play in (rivalry) games because it's so important to the community and the school,'' O'Brien said. ``Certainly, that's all the players hear about all week whether they be in class or in town or whatever. ... I mean, that's all you ever hear about.''

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