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.

Duke Coach: Mellencamp’s Son Practicing With Team

DURHAM – Duke coach David Cutcliffe says walk-on Hud Mellencamp will continue to practice with the football team while he deals with felony battery charges in Indiana.

Cutcliffe said Thursday the son of rocker John Mellencamp will remain active in practice and “we’ll let the legal due process occur.”

Hud Mellencamp, 19, is charged with punching and kicking a 19-year-old man last month.

MonroeCounty (Ind.) authorities say Mellencamp’s younger brother, 18-year-old Speck Mellencamp, entered the porch of a man’s home in Bloomington, Ind., and punched him in the face, believing that man had hit him earlier that evening.

Court documents say the brothers and another 19-year-old man “punched, kicked and stomped” the man who suffered facial injuries.

Hud Mellencamp surrendered for arrest earlier this week and was released on bond.


"In Larry I Trust"

With the 2012 season in the books and the Heels finishing out 8-4 and Coastal Division champs, I would say that there is a lot to be proud of in Chapel Hill and at the Kenan Stadium Football Center!!  Here are just some quick observations/reasons about why I and so many others are “all in” with Fedora and this staff and are thrilled with what the future holds.   

1.       No excuses!!  Coach Fedora came into an absolute mess with NCAA sanctions and with it, the opportunity for upper classmen to hit the road and transfer.  Additionally, there was a wavering fan base that was upset with any number of matters – some fans were upset with the way Butch Davis was treated and how he was shown the door; the Ivory Tower academia group was upset with the “over emphasis” that is put on college athletics and have strayed away from academics; some fans just wanted to move on and forget the entire nightmare of the past two years.  And then, in rides Coach Fedora and the first thing he does is install an up-tempo spread style offense that requires pro style players and a 4-2-5 defense even though he inherited basic 4-3 personnel.  Again, there were no excuses, but more of a challenge to the fan base to bond together to support these players on those magical seven Saturdays every Fall in Kenan Stadium.  The rallying cry was be loud in the Tar Pit, be obnoxious and come early/stay late!  From all accounts I’m seeing and hearing in the community, Coach Fedora as well as Athletic Director Bubba Cunningham have made huge strides with all fan groups and that’s what leaders do.



2.       He’s not a politician and does not deflect blame.  The common thread in college football and the NFL is that when a new coach comes in and there are bumps in the road the immediate response or tilt of the coach is that “these are not my players” or “once we get my kind of kids/players in here, the results and style of play will elevate.”  Coach Fedora came in with the immediate attitude of winning NOW and winning every game. Again, against all odds of the no postseason carrot and the opportunity to technically be the conference champion, Fedora found a way for the players to buy in.  To me that is truly deserving of ACC Coach of the Year status even ousting the miraculous doings of what David Cutcliffe orchestrated over in Wallace Wade this year. 

***I cannot continue without stating many thanks to Coach Davis and John Shoop, who did a fantastic job of leaving the shelves pretty well stocked in the transition year….Thank you coach!



3.       Momentum.  These assistant coaches and Fedora have so many great selling tools going into this recruiting cycle and offseason.  An 8-4 record and being Coastal Division champs (technically), the gaudy and X-BOX type numbers you can help generate in this offense which is recognized on a national level (RUN GIO RUN), a team that produced 10 All-ACC players this past season and lastly, against all odds, the Heels could well be Coastal division pre-season favorites with the way the division is trending and shaking out.  These are all points that will be made in living rooms across the country as Coach Fedora brings in top level talent to run his Nascar-style offense and attacking defense. 



4.       Culture change.  Southern Miss, do you guys wish you tried a little harder to keep him as your head man?  For those of you who do not know, Southern Miss was 12-2 in 2011 and were Conference USA Champions under Coach Fedora.  A year later, not so much.  The Golden Eagles went 0-12 after Coach Fedora settled down in Chapel Hill.  My memory of college football may be limited to the last 30 years but I can’t remember (and didn’t find online), a team that swooned so fast.  This might be a first in college football.  Is this all representative of only the head coach?  No. But he is a pretty big piece of the puzzle and I guarantee if you ask those returning players at Southern Miss, they would be dying to have had Coach Fedora back.  At UNC, a big culture change was the uniforms, swag, colors, threads, gear or whatever you want to refer to it as, but that not only rejuvenated the players but it fired up the fans including this one especially when we saw the fighting Fedoras come out of the tunnel rocking the Chrome Foot helmets against the Wolfpack.  If you don’t think that had a huge impact on that game just take a look at this all-access video and see the reaction from the players.  If you think that the uniform combinations have been awesome this year just wait until next year.  Word from a source is that new combinations of colors were ordered recently with Nike and it will put us on track to be the “Oregon” of the Southeast.  I can’t wait to see them – and more importantly neither can the players and the recruits whom we’re pursuing who will be wearing the new threads.   


What does 2013 hold for the Heels?  I know that we will start out of the gate with a daunting task in Columbia, South Carolina against the University of South Carolina Gamecocks and the Ole’ Ball Coach, who will have in his back pocket the preseason lock national player of the year in Jadeveon Clowney.  With that being said folks, the future is extremely bright on the Hill.  We have our leader in place, our fan base is unifying again and the black cloud is leaving beautiful Chapel Hill!!


Smart. Fast. Physical.    2013 Here we come!!