Women’s Lax: No. 3 UNC Sends Duke Packing, Moves to NCAA Quarters

Looking to turn its recently-earned ACC Championship into something more, the No. 3 UNC women’s lacrosse team first had to take care of an old rival in its NCAA Tournament opener.

The Tar Heels showed no signs of being intimidated however, turning up the heat in the second half of their 15-10 win over the Duke Blue Devils at Fetzer Field on Sunday.

Duke played UNC tight in the Tar Heels’ 7-6 win in the ACC Tournament back on April 29, but the Blue Devils weren’t able to hang around for all 60 minutes this time.

Not once during the game did UNC (17-2) trail the Blue Devils (11-9), as junior Molly Hendrick poured in four goals to help lead a dominant offensive showing by the home team.

Sammy Jo Tracy added three goals and two assists to the Tar Heel cause, while Aly Messinger, Carly Reed and Ela Hazar each found the back of the net twice.

Aly Messinger had two goals against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, including one during UNC's second half surge. (TheACC.com)

Aly Messinger had two goals against Duke in the NCAA Tournament, including one during UNC’s second half surge. (TheACC.com)

Each of Hazar’s goals came during a deciding run after halftime, where UNC turned its slim, 9-8 lead into a comfortable victory.

Just 10 minutes was all the Tar Heels needed in the second half to build a 12-9 advantage–which was their largest lead of the day.

The goals kept on coming over the next ten minutes, with UNC eventually going ahead 14-9 before Duke scored another.

Reed then put the finishing touches on the Tar Heels’ effort by scoring their 15th–and final–goal.

No scoring by either side occurred over the final 11 minutes.

UNC was more than happy to sit on the lead after a back-and-forth first half where it failed to break free, and surrendered hat tricks to Duke’s Grace Fallon and Kelci Smesko.

Fallon and Smesko each scored once more in the second half–finishing with four goals apiece–but the Blue Devil offense ran dry due to a lack of other options.

The Tar Heel women now join their male lacrosse counterparts in the NCAA Quarterfinals, just one win away from their fifth appearance in the Final Four in the last seven seasons.

Up Next:

Awaiting UNC is the No. 6 Notre Dame Fighting Irish. The quarterfinals are scheduled to be played on May 21 and 22, with game times not yet determined.

Game Notes:

  • Hendrick’s first goal for UNC was her 50th of the season. By the end of the game her total was up to 53.
  • UNC had a slight edge over Duke in ground-ball pickups, leading 16-14 in that category.





Diamond Heels Complete Dominating Sweep of Duke

No folks, it’s not illegal what the No. 6 UNC baseball team did to the Duke Blue Devils in Durham this weekend.

It just wasn’t very nice.

After beating Duke 11-2 on Friday and 12-2 on Saturday, the Tar Heels took Sunday’s series finale at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park by a score of 8-2–demolishing their hated rivals for their fifth straight win.

UNC scored three runs in the first inning–capped by a two-run triple from shortstop Logan Warmoth–as it cruised to yet another victory, improving to 17-2 this season (5-1 ACC).

Duke falls to 10-10 and 1-5 in the ACC.

Warmoth went 2-for-5 with a career-high four RBIs in the game, leading a dominant Tar Heel offense that ended Duke starting pitcher Jack Labosky’s day after he had recorded just three outs.

Junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez blasted a two-run homer–his fourth of the year–off Blue Devil reliever Brian McAfee in the the top of the third, giving UNC a five-run lead.

Tyler Ramirez homered and drove in three runs, giving him eight RBIs over the weekend. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Tyler Ramirez homered and drove in three runs, giving him eight RBIs over the weekend. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Ramirez finished 2-for-2 at the plate with three walks and three RBIs, which provided plenty of run support for sophomore righty Jason Morgan on the mound.

In perhaps the best outing of his young career the 6-foot-6 Morgan tossed seven shutout innings while striking out five hitters. He allowed just five hits and walked one batter during that span.

Duke received a workmanlike effort out of the bullpen from McAfee, who pitched the next six innings after Labosky was pulled, but Ramirez was able to take advantage of him again in the fifth with an RBI single that scored right fielder Adam Pate.

By the time the Blue Devils brought in Kellon Urbon to pitch in the seventh inning the game was well out of reach, with the Tar Heels up 6-0.

Warmoth continued his best offensive day of the year with a two-run single off Urbon in the seventh–scoring Pate and leadoff man Brian Miller.

Miller had a pair of hits and stole his team-leading 12th base of the season in the first inning, which allowed him to score the team’s first run of the game.

Relievers Hunter Williams, Spencer Trayner, Taylor Sugg combined to finish out the game–and the weekend obliteration–for the Tar Heels.

The Blue Devils scratched across two runs with two outs in the ninth against Sugg, but were put to rest with a groundout the very next batter.

Up Next:

UNC will return home to play at Boshamer Stadium on Tuesday, as it hosts the Western Carolina Catamounts at 6 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Duke committed a total of nine errors in the three games (five on Friday and two each on Saturday and Sunday.)
  • The combined score of the series was UNC- 31, Duke- 6
  • Ramirez had eight RBIs this weekend, and now has 25 this season–to go along with his .433 batting average.




UNC Baseball Blows Out Duke Again, Clinches Series

Picking up right where it left off on Friday night, the No. 6 UNC baseball team jumped all over the mistake-prone Duke Blue Devils in a series-clinching 12-2 win on Saturday.

Junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez continued his hot start in 2016, going 2-for-5 with three RBIs at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park–including a two-run triple that kick-started a three-run first inning for the Tar Heels.

Ramirez also had an RBI single early in the third inning, which UNC was able to capitalize on with four more runs in the frame–making it 8-0 before all of Duke’s lineup had a chance to bat.

Now 16-2 (4-1 ACC) this season, the Tar Heels needed just eight hits to get their 12 runs.

UNC has made scoring runs look easy as of late--scoring in double digits in each of its last four games, and eight of its last 10. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

UNC has made scoring runs look easy as of late–scoring in double digits in each of its last four games, and eight of its last 10. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Duke–which actually outdid UNC with nine hits–falls to 10-9 (1-4 ACC) with the loss.

On the mound, sophomore starting pitcher JB Bukauskas (3-0) built off of what UNC head coach Mike Fox called his “best start as a Tar Heel” last week against Pittsburgh.

The Ashburn, Virginia native threw 110 pitches over six innings, striking out seven while only giving up four hits on his way to the win.

After being plagued by five errors on Friday, the Blue Devils had a costly error in the huge five-run third inning that broke the game open.

Duke third baseman Max Miller misfired on a throw to second base on a double play attempt. UNC freshman Kyle Datres scored on the play as expected, however, instead of two outs there were none.

Two batters later, Eli Sutherland doubled home Ramirez. Then freshman Brandon Riley hit an RBI groundout that scored Tyler Lynn.

Duke eventually had to go to its third pitcher of the game before UNC right fielder Adam Pate was walked with the bases loaded for the fifth run of the inning.

Pate finished the day 0-for-2 at the plate, but walked three times and had two RBIs–the only Tar Heel other than Ramirez to have more than one RBI.

Wyatt Cross (35) was credited with an RBI for being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Wyatt Cross (35) was credited with an RBI for being hit by a pitch with the bases loaded in the eighth inning. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Problems in the field for Duke–this time a passed ball–also allowed UNC to score one of its two runs in the fifth inning. Freshman catcher Chris Proctor allowed a pitch by reliever Hunter Davis to get by him–letting Cody Roberts come home safely.

After reaching double digit runs for the eighth time in the last ten games, the Tar Heels continued to take what the Blue Devils gave them.

Up 11-1 in the eighth inning, freshman Wyatt Cross came in to pinch hit for UNC with the bases loaded. He was then hit with a 1-2 pitch by reliever Al Pesto, bringing in yet another run to score for the Tar Heels.

Coming out of the UNC bullpen to take care of the finish was sophomore Brett Daniels–who threw two scoreless innings–and junior lefty Zach Rice.

Rice allowed Duke to add one to its run total in the ninth, but by then the game was obviously well out of reach.

Up Next:

The series finale in Durham is set for Sunday, with first pitch set for 1 p.m.

Game Notes:

  • Tyler Ramirez is hitting .415 through 18 games for UNC–good enough for the team lead.
  • The Tar Heels are now 11-0 this season when scoring in the first inning.
  • First baseman Brian Miller was back in the starting lineup for the Tar Heels after missing Friday’s game due to illness. He went 0-for-4 with a pair of walks.
  • Bukauskas has allowed just one run over his last 13 innings pitched.




No. 6 UNC Baseball Crushes Duke In Rivalry Series Opener

Another day, another win for the hot-hitting No. 6 UNC baseball team.

Friday night at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park in Durham, the Tar Heel offense broke a 2-2 tie with a five-run sixth inning–powering UNC to an 11-2 win over the rival Duke Blue Devils.

UNC has now won three in a row after having an 11-game win streak snapped last Sunday against Pittsburgh.

The Tar Heels are 15-2 so far this season and have scored in double digits in seven of its last nine games.

Junior starting pitcher Zac Gallen (3-0) struck out 10 Duke hitters across seven innings of four-hit ball for his second double-digit strikeout game in 2016.

Duke also received a solid performance from its junior starting pitcher, Bailey Clark, but falls to 10-8 with the loss.

Zack Gahagan drove in four runs for UNC as the Tar Heels defeated his cousin, Duke starting pitcher Bailey Clark. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Zack Gahagan drove in four runs for UNC as the Tar Heels defeated his cousin, Duke starting pitcher Bailey Clark. (Joe Bray/ UNC Athletics)

Clark–the cousin of UNC infielder Zack Gahagan–went five innings and allowed only four hits just like Gallen, but hurt his own cause with a pair of errors on pickoff attempts early in the game.

After the second of those errors sent Kyle Datres to second base with two outs in the third inning–junior center fielder Tyler Ramirez singled up the middle to put UNC ahead 1-0. It was the Tar Heels’ first hit of the game.

Not wanting to be outdone in the family affair, Gahagan went 3-for-5 in the game with four RBIs, including an RBI groundout in the fourth off of Clark–a play that followed Duke’s third error.

UNC was able to chase Clark in the top of the sixth by having its first three hitters in the frame reach base. The Blue Devils also committed their fourth error during that time.

Second baseman Eli Sutherland, who finished the night 2-for-3 with two walks, ended Clark’s outing with an RBI single that put UNC ahead 3-2.

Two batters later, Gahagan drove in two runs with a solid double off reliever Mitch Stallings and the rout was on.

Datres and fellow freshman Brandon Riley also added RBI hits during the big sixth inning.

In total, six different Tar Heels drove in at least one run and all of those players had at least one of their RBIs come after the fifth inning–as UNC firmly asserted its dominance against the Blue Devil bullpen.

After tacking on one run in the seventh, the Tar Heels scored three more in the top of the eighth.

UNC then got a pair of scoreless relief innings on the mound from junior AJ Bogucki to finish the deal.

Up Next:

Game two of the series is scheduled for 1 p.m. on Saturday, but could be affected due to rain in the forecast.

Game Notes:

  • Kyle Datres did not record a hit, but he walked three times and picked up an RBI groundout.
  • Duke finished with five errors and only four hits–truly an impressive accomplishment.
  • Gallen was one shy of his career-high in strikeouts (11), which he set in the season opener at UCLA this year.
  • UNC first baseman Brian Miller–hitting .403–sat out with an illness. Gahagan started in his place.

Champs At Last: No. 8 UNC Clinches ACC With 76-72 Win at Duke

The No. 8 UNC men’s basketball team took a large step in silencing their biggest critics on Saturday night—knocking off the No. 17 Duke Blue Devils 76-72 at Cameron Indoor Stadium to clinch the ACC regular season championship.

For the last four years the Tar Heels have been surrounded by the same questions. Questions about their toughness, their killer instinct, and their ability to beat their fiercest rival.

And that doesn’t even include all the off-the-court drama.

Led by ACC Player of the Year candidate Brice Johnson’s 18 points and 21 rebounds, and four critical free throws down the stretch by Marcus Paige–UNC might have just put those questions to bed for good.

Brice Johnson reacts following North Carolina's 76-72 win over Duke. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

Brice Johnson reacts following North Carolina’s 76-72 win over Duke. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

The Tar Heels finish the regular season at 25-6 with a 14-4 ACC mark, but more importantly Paige, Johnson and the rest of the UNC seniors can take the monkey off their back.

They’ve finally won in Durham, and they finally can call themselves conference champions.

“After these four years, three losses in a row here—to come out here win an outright [conference] championship in Cameron,” Paige said after the game. “I can’t be more happy for this group. We’ve been through a lot, so it feels really good.”

With the loss, Duke falls to 22-9 and 11-7 in the ACC. But more importantly the Blue Devils fall to fifth in the conference tournament seeding—missing out on the all-important double bye.

UNC clinched at least a share of the title before the game had tipped off thanks to Miami’s loss at Virginia Tech, but head coach Roy Williams tried his best to keep that information between he and his staff.

“We heard about the Virginia Tech-Miami game before the game,” Williams said. “But we didn’t tell the team. We tried to challenge them that we could win over here and take care of our own business.”

The Tar Heels did more than just take care of business.

In every statistic except three-point shooting and the final score—the usual suspects against Duke—UNC dominated.

Junior forward Kennedy Meeks had a double-double of his own with 12 points and 14 rebounds, and the Tar Heels as a team outrebounded the Blue Devils by an astonishing margin of 64-29.

Timely three-pointers by Grayson Allen, who had 29 points, and Luke Kennard, who had 20, kept Duke afloat–but ultimately UNC’s inside presence proved to be too strong.

“Fourteen rebounds for Kennedy and 21 for Brice Johnson,” Williams said, peering down at his box score. “I’ve been on those two all year long because I want more out of them effort-wise, intelligence-wise. Effort, effort , effort.”

He then went on before adding, “Brice Johnson offensively has done some things that have been done very seldom in my 28 years has a head coach.”

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, left, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski speak. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

North Carolina coach Roy Williams, left, and Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski speak. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

With Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski using just seven players, and one of them—star freshman Brandon Ingram—battling serious foul trouble all night, Williams knew his team would have an answer for each of the Blue Devils’ three-point barrages.

Especially as the game wore on and fatigue set in.

“We were trying to go inside every minute of the game,” he said. “Because we’ve got a size and depth advantage inside.”

As a result, this group of Tar Heels has entered uncharted territory.

Saturday night allowed some lifelong fantasies to come true for UNC. And there’s still more out there for the Tar Heels to accomplish.

After getting a taste of what it’s like to come through on the big stage, it’s fair to say now that it’s time to stop asking questions about this team and start believing.

“I’ve said all year long our dreams were realistic,” Williams said. “Tonight was one of our dreams.”

Up Next:

It’s on to Washington D.C. for the Tar Heels, who will open the ACC Tournament as the top seed at noon on Thursday against the winner of Syracuse and Pittsburgh.

Game Notes:

  • Duke never led at any point during the game.
  • The Blue Devils also made 13 three-pointers compared to just 12 from two-point range.
  • UNC’s 64 rebounds were 12 more than it had in any other game this season. (Previous high was 52 at home against Davidson)
  • Despite him not scoring a point, and playing just 12 minutes, UNC outscored Duke by 15 points when junior guard Nate Britt was on the floor.




Saturday Not Just Another UNC-Duke Game: It’s Bigger

Saturday night when the No. 8 Tar Heels and No. 17 Blue Devils take the floor at Cameron Indoor Stadium it won’t be just another game in the UNC-Duke rivalry.

With the ACC regular season title just one win away, this game is much bigger than that for UNC head coach Roy Williams and company.

“Winning the conference championship is more important,” Williams said at his press conference Friday. “The fact that we have it at Duke, if we were to win it there—I swear if we happen to win I’m not gonna go around the locker room screaming and chanting, ‘We beat Duke.’

“They’re a great, great program, great team,” the coach continued. “But we have battles every year with them.”

Duke's Brandon Ingram drives on UNC's Justin Jackson during the first matchup between the teams this season. (Todd Melet)

Duke’s Brandon Ingram drives on UNC’s Justin Jackson during the first matchup between the teams this season. (Todd Melet)

While it’s true that Williams has been a part of numerous battles with the Blue Devils—including 26 since he returned to Chapel Hill from his job as head coach at Kansas in 2003—his teams have now come out on the wrong end of the rivalry six of the last seven times.

Since UNC’s current senior class arrived, the Blue Devils have continually found ways to beat the Tar Heels in heartbreaking fashion—including just a couple weeks ago when they stormed back over the final six minutes to steal the game at the Smith Center.

But if you ask Marcus Paige as well, payback really isn’t the top priority for this team right now.

“I agree with Coach,” Paige said. “It wouldn’t matter where we were playing or who we were playing against. If you told us we had one game to be ACC champs, then obviously that would be the biggest game for us in our careers since we haven’t won anything like that.

“The fact that it is in Cameron and we haven’t won there just elevates that even further.”

And that’s the other thing about these Tar Heels.

This group of players has never won an ACC Title or a game at Cameron, sure, but they’ve also struggled in road games everywhere this year.

Despite a 24-6 overall record and an ACC leading 13-4 conference mark, UNC is just 5-5 in true road games.

Williams snapped his fingers Friday when asked what the potential of this group truly is, saying sometimes it’s there and sometimes it’s not.

Brice Johnson (pictured) and Marcus Paige have yet to win a conference title or a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Photo via Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson (pictured) and Marcus Paige have yet to win a conference title or a game in Cameron Indoor Stadium. (Photo via Todd Melet)

In other words, he has no idea what to expect Saturday, and no intention of making any predictions—especially given what happened in March of 2012, the last time UNC beat Duke in Cameron.

The Tar Heels won that game 88-70 behind 20 points and 10 assists from point guard Kendall Marshall.

“Dumb ol’ Roy Williams gets on the stupid bus [that night] and said to my staff, ‘If we play like that, we can play the last Monday night of the season,’” the coach told reporters. “Then two games later John Henson gets hurt, two games after that Kendall Marshall gets hurt. So I don’t look at it like that.

“That taught me a lesson,” he added. “Because I thought we were the freakin’ best in the country.”

Many analysts still have the Tar Heels entering the NCAA Tournament as a number one seed—and like Williams did four years ago, have proclaimed them one of the nation’s best squads.

Part of that, however, assumes the Tar Heels win on Saturday to clinch the top seed in the ACC.

Whether that happens is obviously still up in the air, but leave it to Paige—a journalism student by day—to tell you what he thinks the story will be when the clock hits triple zeroes Saturday in Durham.

“Tomorrow will say a lot about how far we’ve come this season,” Paige said. “If we play great it’ll be like a turning point. And I expect us to play great. I think we’re getting there.”


No. 20 Duke Stuns No. 5 UNC 74-73, Williams Apologizes

Roy Williams, like most of Chapel Hill, was at a loss for words at the Dean Smith Center on Wednesday night after watching his No. 5 Tar Heels drop yet another heartbreaker to the hated Duke Blue Devils, this one by a score of 74-73.

Despite trailing 68-60 with just over six minutes to play, the Blue Devils, ranked 20th in the nation, stormed back to steal the lead with just more than 60 seconds of that time remaining.

But moments later, following a missed shot by Duke sophomore guard Grayson Allen, the Tar Heels had one final opportunity to get it back.

Brice Johnson had 29 points and 19 rebounds for UNC, but only two of those points came in the final 13 minutes. (Todd Melet)

Brice Johnson had 29 points and 19 rebounds for UNC, but only two of those points came in the final 13 minutes. (Todd Melet)

Point-man Joel Berry drove the ball to the basket and jumped into the trees, looking for a foul call that never came. UNC had three timeouts at its disposal, but decided to let the sequence play out and came up short.

For that, Williams could only apologize.

“I told [the players] I was sorry,” the coach said. “I should have gotten them a better shot at the end of the game.”

Duke, which went through a stretch where it lost four of five games, has now won five straight to improve to 20-6 this season with a 9-4 record in the ACC.

UNC, meanwhile, is now 21-5 and loses its stranglehold on first place in the conference—falling into a tie with Miami at 10-3 in the league.

Senior guard Marcus Paige shot just 2-of-10 on Wednesday, accounting for just seven points—but he made it clear after the game that his coach didn’t need to say sorry to anybody for anything.

“Didn’t need to hear it,” Paige said of Williams’ apology. “Didn’t want to hear it. But that’s just the competitor that Coach is. He’s gonna try to find ways to get better, and we gotta do the same thing.”

He continued by explaining the team’s strategy in that situation, something Williams said was taught to him by the late Dean Smith.

“We know that if there’s more than seven seconds on the game clock that we want to attack before the defense has a chance to get set,” Paige said.

Before the rally that ultimately decided the outcome, UNC looked to be in complete control—seemingly riding a 29-point, 19-rebound night from senior forward Brice Johnson all the way to the promise land.

However, Johnson shot just once over the last 12 minutes and his monstrous performance went from headline to afterthought in the blink of an eye.

Duke head coach Mike Krzyzewski was still left grasping for words though—much like Williams—when discussing the effort of UNC’s ACC Player of the Year candidate.

Wiry freshman Brandon Ingram put together his own double-double--finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Duke.

Wiry freshman Brandon Ingram put together his own double-double–finishing with 20 points and 10 rebounds for Duke.

“These games are so damn good,” Krzyzewski said. “So tough. And Brice Johnson’s unbelievable now,” he added. “He’s so damn good.

“But our kids were good too, so we earned a really hard fought win tonight,” he added.

After losing guard Matt Jones to a sprained left ankle at the end of the first half, Duke was down to just five players in its playing rotation for the final 20 minutes.

Behind 23 points from Allen, 20 from star freshman Brandon Ingram, and 15 from Luke Kennard off the bench, the Blue Devils managed to shake off their fatigue and pulled out a win from the jaws of defeat.

Recently this has become all too common in this rivalry, with Duke winning six of the last seven meetings between the teams.

“It’s a wonderful rivalry to be involved in,” Williams said. “But I’m sick and tired of just being involved.

“We’ve gotta play better.”

Up Next:

The Tar Heels have yet to beat a ranked team in ACC play, going 0-3 in those games.

But now a first-place matchup against the No. 11 Miami Hurricanes looms on Saturday.

As crushing as this loss is for UNC, the team simply has no time to dwell on it–or the season could quickly snowball out of control.

Game Notes:

  • Justin Jackson, with 13 points on 6-of-13 shooting, was the only Tar Heel to join Johnson in double figures. It was Jackson’s fourth double-figure performance in the last five games.
  • The Tar Heels shot 1-of-13 (7.7%) from three-point range (the third lowest percentage in school history), compared to Duke’s 7-of-19 (36.8%)–a major reason the Blue Devils hung around.
  • It was Johnson’s fourth 20-point, 10-rebound game of the season.
  • Allen and Ingram each played the entire game for Duke.




Williams Obliterates Duke and the Record Book: UNC Wins 66-31

The way all the jaws were hanging to the floor in Chapel Hill, it almost appeared as if the fans at Kenan Stadium had just seen a ghost–and in some ways they did.

In front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday, the No. 21 UNC football team matched its longest winning streak since 1997 with an emphatic 66-31 blowout over the arch-rival Duke Blue Devils.

Senior quarterback Marquise Williams put together a statistical performance normally only seen in video games–starting with an 89-yard flea flicker touchdown pass to junior Ryan Switzer on the team’s first offensive play.

It was something that the UNC coaches determined they would run right out of the gate if they saw a specific coverage they were looking for.

“If the safety is not gonna fit, you can’t run that play because he can be the backside safety and run over to where the ball’s gonna be placed at,” Williams said after the game. “And I was just praying, I prayed last night before I went to sleep hoping this play is the first play and the safety just fits.

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

“God answered my prayer,” he added.

From there, the Tar Heels refused to take their foot off the gas pedal, smashing any and every record they could get their hands on before the clock hit triple zeroes.

Having obviously eaten his Wheaties before the game, Williams completed 23-of-35 passes for 494 yards–a new school record–and accounted for five touchdowns in all. He also rushed for 30 yards, to finish with 524 total yards by himself–the first Tar Heel to ever break the 500 yard mark–in what was arguably the best performance ever by a UNC football player.

“Quise was on the money with it today,” Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora said. “He did a really nice job. We got length on the outside, we got great quickness on the outside, so we’ve got great weapons in that area.”

UNC has now racked up eight consecutive wins, and has its fifth straight victory to begin ACC play. At 8-1 overall and 5-0 against conference opponents, Fedora has his squad sitting firmly atop the league’s Coastal Division.

Duke, meanwhile, has now lost two games in a row–dropping to 6-3 in all games, and 3-2 in conference play.

Coming into Saturday, the Blue Devils boasted the nation’s ninth ranked defense–a unit surrendering just 295 yards of offense per game.

But Williams and his uber-athletic group of receivers made scoring against the Duke secondary look like child’s play.

Along with Switzer’s crowd pleasing flea flicker touchdown, the Tar Heels scored in the first half on a 79-yard rainbow from Williams to Mack Hollins, and on a 49-yard dart to Bug Howard–a play that made the score 38-10 with just one second remaining before halftime.

MJ Stewart tackles Duke's Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

MJ Stewart tackles Duke’s Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

Hollins set a career-high with 5 catches for 165 yards, while Switzer also broke the century mark–ending the game with 107 yards on 5 receptions. Howard caught three balls for 83 yards, nearly making it three receivers above the 100-yard threshold.

Star running back Elijah Hood scored three times on 17 carries, gaining 69 yards. His main contributions came as a blocker, though, picking up the blitz on a couple of Williams’ long touchdown throws.

“We feed off explosive plays, and we’re an explosive offense,” Hood said. “So one big play, and you’re bound for more, I think, with us.”

At halftime, UNC had already amassed 486 yards of total offense–before eventually finishing with 704. It’s just the third time in school history that the Tar Heels have reached the 700-yard plateau.

The Blue Devils found success running the ball against Gene Chizik’s defense with running backs Shaquille Powell (13 carries for 98 yards) and Jela Duncan (13 carries for 115 yards)–but simply could not keep up with the Tar Heels’ break-neck scoring pace.

Duncan’s 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter brought the score to 21-10. That was the closest it would get the rest of the game.

“I heard one of the [Duke players] tell [Ryan] Switzer, ‘This is gonna be a long day,'” Williams said. “I started laughing when I heard a guy said that. I told Coach [Fedora], ‘We gotta keep going, we gotta keep going. The guy’s already feeling like this is gonna be a long game for ’em, so let’s keep going.'”

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk struggled with his accuracy, completing just 18 of his 37 throws for 191 yards and two interceptions on the day. He did do some damage of his own in the running game, however, scrambling eight times for 74 yards–including a pair of touchdown scampers in the third quarter, one from 53 yards out and another from four yards away.

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

UNC continued to show no mercy, however, as Elijah Hood ran in two scores of his own in the quarter. Williams also found senior Quinshad Davis during the frame to make it four touchdown passes to four different receivers.

As has become the norm this season when the Tar Heels play at home, the fourth quarter was strictly a formality.

The backups, led by sophomore quarterback Mitch Trubisky, played out the final period–but not without getting in on the fun.

Trubisky ran in a score from two yards out to put UNC above the 60-point mark, the first time it has hit that total this season.

For the second straight year, the Victory Bell will reside in Chapel Hill–much to the delight of Mack Hollins and the rest of the Tar Heel team.

“All week at practice, the bell was [there],” Hollins said. “I was big into screaming, ‘Duke Week’ and ‘Ring my bell’, and all that stuff. So to have it on our sideline after, and to know that it’s ours for a whole ‘nother 365 [days] is a great feeling.”

Up Next:

The red-hot Tar Heels will play their final home game of the year next Saturday against Miami. As it stands right now, UNC controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division, and is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Game Notes:

  • Marquise Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was his 80th touchdown accounted for in a Carolina uniform, moving him past former quarterback Darian Durant (2001-2004) for the UNC school record in that category.
  • It took UNC just 2:01 with the ball to score its first two touchdowns.
  • The Tar Heels scored points on 10 of their 13 drives, and their 66 points were the most they’ve ever scored in an ACC game.



UNC-Duke: This One’s Bigger Than the Bell

Each year since 1948 UNC and Duke have battled on the gridiron for the right to ring the Victory Bell on the way out of the stadium.

But when the rivalry is renewed in Chapel Hill on Saturday, the Victory Bell won’t be the only thing at stake—which is a far cry from years past.

Winners of seven games in a row, the Tar Heels lead the ACC Coastal Division, are 4-0 against conference competition, and bring a 7-1 overall record into Saturday’s grudge match against coach David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils–who are 6-2 with a 3-1 conference mark.

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels' recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels’ recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

UNC will also sport a fancy number next to its name during the broadcast for the first time this season, as the makers of the AP Top 25 ranked head coach Larry Fedora’s bunch as the 21st best squad in the land this week.

“I haven’t really talked to them about that,” Fedora said on Monday. “Because our goal hasn’t been to be in the poll. That’s not what our goal is. We’ve got bigger goals than that. That just happens to come with it.

“But it really doesn’t change who we are,” the coach continued. “Who we were [last] Thursday night [against Pitt] when we weren’t ranked and who we are today, we’re still the same team.”

Last week Duke was ranked 22nd in the polls, but lost to Miami by way of a miracle last second kickoff return. That play robbed fans of both schools from seeing them play as ranked football teams for the first time in 76 years.

For once, Tar Heels like senior receiver Quinshad Davis, had no clue how to feel about a Blue Devil loss.

“It was a love/hate thing,” Davis said about the wild finish. “Because [we] love that they lost, but we hate that they aren’t going to be ranked when we play ’em, and it’ll be a big time game.”

Kenan Stadium has been sold out for this meeting for over a week now, as the anticipation reaches basketball-level heights here in the Triangle area. Now that the football rivalry is beginning to spread its wings just a bit, Davis and the rest of his teammates are itching to hit the field and show what they can do in front of a packed house.

“[The rivalry’s] always been a big deal with the football team,” the receiver told reporters on Tuesday. “But as far as the fan base goes it’s become a big deal because both teams are winning and both have a chance to win the Coastal this year.”

For seniors like Davis, offensive guard Landon Turner, and quarterback Marquise Williams—this game is especially huge because they’ve played in it during times where neither team was on anyone’s national radar. Back then, it was all about the bell.

Among the football players, this rivalry has always been huge.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Among the football players themselves, this rivalry has always been huge. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

And in Turner’s eyes, that message has not been lost, regardless of what the standings say.

“It’s kinda nice to see it be big for everyone else, but it really hadn’t changed how we feel about it,” he said. “It’s the Battle for the Bell, and I think both teams–both football teams, not basketball teams–are really understanding of that.”

Over the last 24 games between the schools located just a handful of miles apart, the Tar Heels have dominated, going 21-3 in that span—including a 45-20 win in Durham last year where Williams was fantastic, throwing for 276 yards and accounting for four touchdowns.

“We took care of business last year, but this year’s a new year,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to keeping [the bell] here where it belongs.

The Charlotte native continued by acknowledging this is the senior class’s final chance at glory in this classic rivalry.

“It’d be great for my last year to keep the bell here, and have our fans ringing the bell after the game,” he said.

A win Saturday would keep the bell in Chapel Hill, while also playing a large role in sending UNC to a place it’s never been before—the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?


Broadcast Information:

WCHL will be broadcasting the game live on our airwaves, with kickoff set to take place at noon. ESPN2 will have the TV coverage.

Game Notes:

  • Junior cornerback Brian Walker, a key cog in UNC’s pass defense ranked third in the country in yards allowed, left the team last Wednesday. He is expected to seek a transfer in order to get more playing time.
  • With two touchdowns on Saturday, Marquise Williams would become the school’s all-time leader in that category, passing former quarterback Darian Durant–who accounted for 79 in his career (passing, rushing, and receiving.)
  • UNC is one of only 10 teams in the country to average more than 200 yards rushing (210.3) and 250 yards passing (259.8) per game.

Cash Expected to Make Huge Impact on UNC-Duke Matchup

When UNC quarterback Marquise Williams gets the ball on Saturday in the Tar Heels’ battle with Duke, he’ll be facing a defense ranked ninth in the country, and giving up just 295 yards per game.

As good as they are as a group, there’s one Blue Devil in particular that Williams will have to keep his eye on all day to have a shot at pulling out the win.

All week long the Tar Heel players and coaches have had to take questions about Duke senior safety Jeremy Cash.

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

The 6-foot-2 Miami native transferred to Durham in 2012 from perennial powerhouse Ohio State and has been working his way up NFL Draft rankings ever since—racking up 181 tackles and eight sacks over the past year and a half.

That body of work has some analysts projecting him as a first round pick—which should be more than enough to merit Williams’ full attention.

“Jeremy Cash is one heck of a football player,” Williams said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “I’ve been watching him a couple years now. He’s been doing a tremendous job what he’s doing at blitz packages or covering guys.

“He’s one of the top guys in the ACC,” he continued. “Or in the country.”

UNC comes into the matchup averaging 470 yards of total offense per game, so something will have to give this weekend.

Sophomore running back Elijah Hood is on pace to be the Tar Heels’ first 1000-yard rusher since current Cincinnati Bengal Gio Bernard accomplished the feat in 2012–and just the third to do it since 1997–but he says the offense may have to make a few adjustments this week to deal with Cash’s unique skill set.

“I feel like this week we might have something a little special because Jeremy Cash is particularly a special player when it comes to blitzing and getting tackles for losses,” Hood said. “There might be something we put in just in case, you know, make sure we’re alerted whenever he’s in the nickel or trying to come off the edge.

“He can be…kind of a disruption whenever he has the opportunity.”

Although Cash’s primary role is that of a deep safety, he also plays some linebacker and cornerback—in order to stuff the run and match up with opposing inside receivers–which means UNC’s slithery slot man Ryan Switzer may have a tough time breaking off the big plays he’s produced in recent weeks.

Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora wouldn’t disclose any of his game plan specifics, but did acknowledge the challenge in front of him.

“He is a really good football player,” Fedora said about Cash. “They put him in a lot of different places, they do a lot of things with him, and he’s really good. He’s the heart and soul of their defense.”

UNC's Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

UNC’s Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

Aside from last Saturday’s devastating loss to Miami, the result of a walk-off eight-lateral kick return touchdown, Cash and the Blue Devils have become contenders to win the ACC Coastal Division by limiting the type of explosive gains that have propelled the Tar Heels to the top of the division standings.

“They’re a sound fundamental football team,” Hood said. “They’re always in position. You don’t really see that many busts in what they’re doing or the way they’re attacking the [running] lanes. Their discipline and the way they execute in situations is something they do well.”

There’s an old saying in sports that talent recognizes talent.

So if there’s anyone that can speak to the ability of Duke’s super safety, it’s UNC’s own first round NFL prospect—senior offensive guard Landon Turner.

“I think his biggest thing is he just makes plays,” Turner said after practice on Tuesday. “It seems like he’s all over the field and he’s in every play.

“I can tell he’s definitely a leader on that side of the ball, and that’s tough to contend with,” he added. “We’re gonna have our hands full with that this weekend.”