FINAL: Butler 74, UNC 66 – CLICK FOR RECAP

Tar Heels Reclaim Victory Bell, Down Duke

The North Carolina football team dashed out to a commanding 28-7 halftime lead and went on to beat rival Duke 45-20 Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium to improve to 6-5 on the season and in the process, gain bowl eligibility.

***Listen to the story***

With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 8-3 on the season and handed the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets the ACC Coastal division crown and a spot in the ACC Championship game opposite Florida State.

Marquise Williams threw for 374 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Tar Heel offense to a torrid start, and despite a few hiccups in the second quarter that could have broken the game open further, turned in an impressive performance that the careless Blue Devils were unable to match.

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

In an encouraging sign, for the first time this season, the Tar Heels had a running back eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game. It was T.J. Logan who earned the distinction with 117 yards and a touchdown.

“I think we finally put together a complete game in all three phases – offensively, defensively and special teams. Other than the three turnovers we had offensively, it couldn’t have been a more solid game for us,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

In a surprising twist, the much-maligned Tar Heel defense rose to the occasion, coming up with big stops after the offensive miscues in the second quarter that gave Duke a chance to hang around in the game.

“It was huge. For the defense to go out there in those situations and hold them to no points after those three fumbles, that was big. And that gave a shot of adrenaline to the entire team,” Coach Fedora says.

Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone tossed two touchdowns and threw for 262 yards, but he was sacked three times and gave away an interception.

“I don’t know if there are words that fit how you feel. I told the team after the game, I said ‘First thing I don’t want you to forget is all this winning that has led us to a Thursday night opportunity on national television playing your arch rival. Obviously it was a disaster from our standpoint,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe says.

***Listen to Larry Fedora’s postgame remarks***

On Duke’s first drive, UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer recovered a fumble. It got the Tar Heels rolling.

From there, the offense raced ahead. A 3-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Switzer got UNC on the scoreboard first, and then the defense pitched in again with a 10-yard fumble return for a touchdown by senior safety Tim Scott.

At the end of the first quarter, the Tar Heels had claimed a 21-7 lead over the Blue Devils. Duke got on the board with a 10-yard touchdown heave by Boone into the arms of Isaac Blakeney.

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

But that was the home team’s only score of the half to the dismay of the crowd. As for UNC, it added seven more points to its ledger thanks to a 1-yard Williams keeper into the end zone with 13:02 on the second quarter clock.

On the critical second half opening drive, the Blue Devils turned the ball over when Boone tossed an interception to MJ Stewart.

The Tar Heels took advantage immediately with an impressive offensive possession that ended with a one-yard touchdown by TJ Logan with 9:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Everything was going right for the Tar Heels. A season-long 30-yard field goal make by Thomas Moore to push the lead up to 38-7 with 6:23 in the third quarter, confirmed that. It was that kind of night.

UNC coasted from there, gliding to the rivalry win that earned  them back the coveted Victory Bell after a two-year hiatus.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a season-ending in-state matchup with the N.C. State Wolfpack next Saturday in Chapel Hill.

FINAL BOX SCORE

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-reclaim-victory-bell-duke/

Tar Heels, Blue Devils Battle For The Bell

The North Carolina football team, 5-5 on the season, meets 8-2 rival Duke Thursday night in front of a nationally-televised audience at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Battle for the Bell kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

***Listen to the story***

With the short week, UNC head coach Larry Fedora says the Tar Heels have had to adjust everything about their preparation.

“It’s not normal. The whole week is different for you. The players have to do a great job of staying in the moment and make sure they have adjusted their minds to what day of practice it is. It’s a different situation for them,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora consoles the Pitt head coach last weekend (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora consoles the Pitt head coach last weekend (Elliott Rubin)

Duke is coming off a disappointing 17-16 home loss to Coastal division foe Virginia Tech, but still controls its own destiny in the race to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

The hungry Tar Heels, coming off a 40-35 victory  over Pittsburgh, would like nothing more than to knock their bitter rivals off their desired path to the Queen City.

But UNC junior linebacker Shakeel Rashad says the Tar Heels will be up against it with the efficient Duke attack bolstered by a rock-solid offensive line.

“They’re very efficient. They don’t really make mistakes. Their offensive line really works well together. They’ve got some great players at quarterback and receiver. They’re spread out all over the field, and they’ve got a lot of people who can make big plays on the offensive line that allows them to do it,” Rashad says.

Coach Fedora says it’s Duke’s speedy wide receiver Jamison Crowder that gives him the most cause for concern.

Crowder has 5,197 career all-purpose yards and recently became only the 11th player in ACC football history to reach the 5,000 yard plateau.

“That guy [Crowder] can do it all. He’s got great speed and catches the ball really well. They use him in the return game, too. He’s a special player. Watching him for three years, he’s a dang-good player,” Coach Fedora says.

Jamison Crowder hits his stride (GoDuke.com)

Jamison Crowder hits his stride (GoDuke.com)

Blue Devil head coach David Cucliffe says preparing for Coach Fedora’s up-tempo and high-powered offense in just a few days has been a stern challenge.

“I have the upmost respect for what they [UNC] do. They do it extremely well. Coach Fedora is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. I’ve followed his career all the way back, whether it was Florida, Middle Tennessee or Oklahoma State. He’s been on the cutting edge. They present a lot of problems. There’s no question they’re difficult to get ready for in just a few days,” Coach Cutcliffe says.

There will be an intriguing position battle in the contest with dynamic signal caller Marquise Williams going up against the much-improved Duke quarterback Anthony Boone.

Boone had a rough outing against the Hokies last weekend, but says he’s confident his team will take better care of the football against the Tar Heels.

“It’s not really a huge concern. We’ve had pretty good success as far as not turning the ball over and creating explosive plays. We’ve just got to go out there and be who we are and not try to speed it up too much or worry about what they’re doing. We’ve just got to go out there and execute our offense,” Boone says.

UNC’s Rashad says not having the Victory Bell out at practice the past couple seasons has been painful and has only fueled his teammates’ ambitions to reclaim the prize.

Marquise Williams escapes a defender (Elliott Rubin)

Marquise Williams escapes a defender (Elliott Rubin)

“It’s something that’s really important around here. This game means a lot to a lot of people. It means a lot to us. I remember my freshman year; we had the Bell out here at practice that week. So not seeing it out here the last couple years, you’re reminded of it,” Rashad says.

On the gridiron, UNC holds a 58-38-4 advantage in the all-time head-to-head series between the two schools.

The 101st meeting promises to be a compelling one, but the underdog Tar Heels will certainly need to put together a complete four quarters of clean, disciplined football to recapture the Victory Bell in enemy territory Thursday night.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/tar-heels-blue-devils-battle-bell/

Bowl President: ‘No Doubt’ About No. 22 Duke

DURHAM — Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan wants to set the record straight: His bowl always wanted No. 22 Duke.

Speaking Thursday during a news conference at the Blue Devils’ team headquarters, Stokan shot down rumors that he would have preferred another ACC team in his bowl.

He says he “understands there’s been some mention of politics” but adds that “there was no doubt in our minds” about Duke.

Stokan adds that “there was nothing that went on behind the scenes” about possibly choosing another ACC school — possibly Miami or Virginia Tech — ahead of Duke.

The Blue Devils (10-3) will play No. 20 Texas A&M (8-4) on Dec. 31 in the Atlanta-based bowl.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/acc/bowl-president-doubt-22-duke/

Duke’s Coach Cutcliffe Named National Coach of the Year

DURHAM — Duke Football head coach David Cutcliffe was named National Coach of the Year by the Walter Camp Foundation on Wednesday.

Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to a 10-2 record and an ACC Coastal Division title in 2013. His team will face No. 1 Florida State this Saturday in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

This season was Duke’s first winning season since 1994. Their 10 wins is the most any Duke football squad has ever won.

Cutcliffe was also the ACC Coach of the Year in both 2012 and 2013.

The Walter Camp Coach of the Year is chosen by 125 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors across the nation.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/dukes-coach-cutcliffe-dubbed-national-coach-year/

GAME RECAP: Duke 27, UNC 25

CHAPEL HILL– No. 24 Duke pulled out a tight 27-25 win over Carolina to claim the Coastal Division title and earn a trip to the ACC Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State next Saturday.

The game was tense throughout, but DeVon Edwards picked off Marquise Williams with 13 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. Duke improved to 10-2 on the year while UNC fell to 6-6.

Third downs told the tale of the game. The Blue Devils converted on eight of their 15 attempts while the Tar Heels were just two for 12.

Anthony Boone opened up in the quarterback position for the Duke offense. The Blue Devils use a dual system at quarterback. The opening drive was uneventful for the Blue Devils as a spirited Tar Heel defense stopped them three and out.

The Tar Heels opened up their drive with a solid completion to Quinshad Davis. T.J. Logan dashed ahead for a good pickup into Duke territory next. But ultimately, Carolina was bottled up and a 42-yard Thomas Moore field goal was missed wide right to the dismay of the crowd.

Duke took the ensuing possession and pushed the ball across midfield with some nifty plays, but the Tar Heel defense stiffened up, and a tackle by Shawn Underwood on third down forced a punt.

Electricity ensued for the Tar Heels. Eric Ebron, playing in his final home game in a Carolina uniform after declaring for the NFL Draft, snagged a 79-yard catch – the longest of his career.

***Listen to the play***

QUISE_TO EBRON BIG GAIN

And two plays later, Marquise Williams capped off the scoring drive with a keeper into the end zone.

Carolina posted a 7-0 lead with 8:22 to play in the first quarter to the delight of a packed out Kenan Stadium.

But Duke was ready to respond. They marched the ball right down the field with precision passing and inspired running up the middle. A 74-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Boone to Jamison Crowder. It was Crowder’s 85th catch of the year and tied a Duke record.

And to make matters worse, UNC’s Travis Hughes was assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the scoring play.

At the close of the first quarter, the score was deadlocked at seven. Duke had managed eight first downs to Carolina’s four. Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone had received all the snaps and went six for eight for 64 yards.

The second quarter started strong for Carolina thanks to a beautiful punt by Tommy Hibbard that pinned Duke inside their own five yard line.

But the poor field position did nothing to deter the Duke offensive attack. Tight end Braxton Deaver was tearing apart the Carolina defense with laser-like passes from Anthony Boone. The whole length of the field was traversed by the Blue Devils.

The 8:20 second drive was stalled inside the five yard line. It was a big goal line stand for the Tar Heels. In fact, it was the first time all season Duke had first and goal to go and didn’t score a touchdown.

The Blue Devils made the field goal, however, and went up 10-7 with 6:31 left in the half.

Disaster struck for the Blue Devils next. Crowder fumbled the punt, and the Tar Heels recovered at the Duke 34-yard line. Could Carolina cash in?

Well, a huge fourth down conversion was completed to Eric Ebron. And a few plays later, a fumble into the end zone was under review by the officials. It appeared on the replay that UNC was either down on the half-yard line or had scored a touchdown before the ball came loose.

The officials ruled Logan was down. It was a first and goal for the Tar Heels. And Marquise Williams ran around the end for an easy touchdown.

UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora elected to go for a two-point conversion on some trickery with a fake field goal. The kicker Hibbard threw a pass to get the two points and place the Tar Heels up 15-10 with 1:30 left in the half.

How did Duke respond? With a 99-yard kickoff return by DeVon Edwards, of course, to take the lead 17-15.

UNC couldn’t answer on the following drive as the Duke defense got some pressure on Williams in the backfield. A Hibbard punt gave the Blue Devils the ball on their own 11 with little time left on the clock.

At the half, it was Duke with a whopping 17 first downs to a mere 7 for UNC. Quarterback Marquise Williams was 8 for 15 for 156 yards. Eric Ebron set the single season record for yardage by an ACC tight end with his 103 first half yards.

Duke’s Kelby Brown picked off Williams on the opening drive of the second half for the Tar Heels. The pass was intended for Ebron.

And after the turnover, Boone hit a wide open receiver to give the Blue Devils a first and goal situation. And Jamison Crowder made an incredible grab in the back of the end zone to give Duke a 124-15 lead with 12:08 on the clock in the third quarter. What an athletic Crowder catch that was.

UNC’s play calling was a bit redundant on their next drive. They threw three straight bombs and failed to convert on fourth down to hand the ball back to Duke. The killer on that drive was a dropped ball by T.J. Logan inside the five-yard line.

The Blue Devils were back at it and could sense another score would do a lot to help their chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte next weekend.

But a nice third down break-up by Tre Boston and a poorly thrown ball by Boone on a fourth down try gave the ball back to Carolina.

Eric Ebron made a nice sideline grab to pick up a first down into Duke territory for Carolina. UNC really needed a score. And they got it. Davis broke free for a score to energize the crowd and get UNC within two points at 24-22 with 5:10 left in third quarter.

On the next chance for Duke, it was the UNC defense that started strong. They forced a third and long play. But the Blue Devils converted on yet another third down. That was becoming a theme of the day. Duke was now 7 for 11 on third downs.

Another third down arose for Duke at the Carolina 44. Darius Lipford stepped up to supply big pressure and force a Duke punt.

Switzer sped around the end for a nine yard pickup for UNC. Logan then took the ball for a 14-yard burst that had Carolina off and running yet again.

But a no call on a possible pass interference on Ebron left Coach Fedora fuming on the sidelines. He spent the entire rest of the series yelling at the referees.

A beautiful punt by Hibbard gave Duke the ball at their own three yard line to start their offensive series.

The Carolina defense came to play in the second half. A massive tackle by Malik Simmons on third down and six forced another Duke punt.

Switzer was taken down at the UNC 32 and the Tar Heels were set to start another important drive. And it began on a rough note. A holding penalty backed Carolina up.

But the offense clicked after that. The 12-play, 4:50 drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal for Thomas Moore. He nailed it down the middle to give the Tar Heels a 25-24 lead with 7:03 to play.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Russell Bodine, however, might have cost UNC a chance at a touchdown.

On the next possession, Tre Boston dropped an errant throw by Boone. It should have been an interception. And Boone capitalized on a nice throw over the middle that set Duke up for a good scoring chance at the UNC 33-yard line.

The Tar Heel defense stiffened yet again to hold Duke to a field goal. With 2:22 remaining in the contest, the Blue Devils were clinging to a 27-25 lead.

Thanks to a block in the back penalty, the Carolina offense would start their final drive of the game inside their own 10-yard line.

A face mask penalty helped Carolina’s cause, moving them out to the 25-yard line. A Switzer first down moved the ball to the 36-yard line with just under a minute to go.

Williams picked up a fourth down with his legs, but he threw an easy interception a couple plays later to hand the game over to Duke with 13 seconds remaining in game.

http://chapelboro.com/news/game-recap-2/

Duke Keeps Victory Bell with Thrilling 27-25 Win at Carolina

CHAPEL HILL– No. 24 Duke pulled out a tight 27-25 win over Carolina to claim the Coastal Division title and earn a trip to the ACC Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State next Saturday.

The game was tense throughout, but DeVon Edwards picked off Marquise Williams with 13 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. Duke improved to 10-2 on the year while UNC fell to 6-6.

Third downs told the tale of the game. The Blue Devils converted on eight of their 15 attempts while the Tar Heels were just two for 12.

Anthony Boone opened up in the quarterback position for the Duke offense. The Blue Devils use a dual system at quarterback. The opening drive was uneventful for the Blue Devils as a spirited Tar Heel defense stopped them three and out.

The Tar Heels opened up their drive with a solid completion to Quinshad Davis. T.J. Logan dashed ahead for a good pickup into Duke territory next. But ultimately, Carolina was bottled up and a 42-yard Thomas Moore field goal was missed wide right to the dismay of the crowd.

Duke took the ensuing possession and pushed the ball across midfield with some nifty plays, but the Tar Heel defense stiffened up, and a tackle by Shawn Underwood on third down forced a punt.

Electricity ensued for the Tar Heels. Eric Ebron, playing in his final home game in a Carolina uniform after declaring for the NFL Draft, snagged a 79-yard catch – the longest of his career.

***Listen to the play***

QUISE_TO EBRON BIG GAIN

And two plays later, Marquise Williams capped off the scoring drive with a keeper into the end zone.

Carolina posted a 7-0 lead with 8:22 to play in the first quarter to the delight of a packed out Kenan Stadium.

But Duke was ready to respond. They marched the ball right down the field with precision passing and inspired running up the middle. A 74-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Boone to Jamison Crowder. It was Crowder’s 85th catch of the year and tied a Duke record.

And to make matters worse, UNC’s Travis Hughes was assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the scoring play.

At the close of the first quarter, the score was deadlocked at seven. Duke had managed eight first downs to Carolina’s four. Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone had received all the snaps and went six for eight for 64 yards.

The second quarter started strong for Carolina thanks to a beautiful punt by Tommy Hibbard that pinned Duke inside their own five yard line.

But the poor field position did nothing to deter the Duke offensive attack. Tight end Braxton Deaver was tearing apart the Carolina defense with laser-like passes from Anthony Boone. The whole length of the field was traversed by the Blue Devils.

The 8:20 second drive was stalled inside the five yard line. It was a big goal line stand for the Tar Heels. In fact, it was the first time all season Duke had first and goal to go and didn’t score a touchdown.

The Blue Devils made the field goal, however, and went up 10-7 with 6:31 left in the half.

Disaster struck for the Blue Devils next. Crowder fumbled the punt, and the Tar Heels recovered at the Duke 34-yard line. Could Carolina cash in?

Well, a huge fourth down conversion was completed to Eric Ebron. And a few plays later, a fumble into the end zone was under review by the officials. It appeared on the replay that UNC was either down on the half-yard line or had scored a touchdown before the ball came loose.

The officials ruled Logan was down. It was a first and goal for the Tar Heels. And Marquise Williams ran around the end for an easy touchdown.

UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora elected to go for a two-point conversion on some trickery with a fake field goal. The kicker Hibbard threw a pass to get the two points and place the Tar Heels up 15-10 with 1:30 left in the half.

How did Duke respond? With a 99-yard kickoff return by DeVon Edwards, of course, to take the lead 17-15.

UNC couldn’t answer on the following drive as the Duke defense got some pressure on Williams in the backfield. A Hibbard punt gave the Blue Devils the ball on their own 11 with little time left on the clock.

At the half, it was Duke with a whopping 17 first downs to a mere 7 for UNC. Quarterback Marquise Williams was 8 for 15 for 156 yards. Eric Ebron set the single season record for yardage by an ACC tight end with his 103 first half yards.

Duke’s Kelby Brown picked off Williams on the opening drive of the second half for the Tar Heels. The pass was intended for Ebron.

And after the turnover, Boone hit a wide open receiver to give the Blue Devils a first and goal situation. And Jamison Crowder made an incredible grab in the back of the end zone to give Duke a 124-15 lead with 12:08 on the clock in the third quarter. What an athletic Crowder catch that was.

UNC’s play calling was a bit redundant on their next drive. They threw three straight bombs and failed to convert on fourth down to hand the ball back to Duke. The killer on that drive was a dropped ball by T.J. Logan inside the five-yard line.

The Blue Devils were back at it and could sense another score would do a lot to help their chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte next weekend.

But a nice third down break-up by Tre Boston and a poorly thrown ball by Boone on a fourth down try gave the ball back to Carolina.

Eric Ebron made a nice sideline grab to pick up a first down into Duke territory for Carolina. UNC really needed a score. And they got it. Davis broke free for a score to energize the crowd and get UNC within two points at 24-22 with 5:10 left in third quarter.

On the next chance for Duke, it was the UNC defense that started strong. They forced a third and long play. But the Blue Devils converted on yet another third down. That was becoming a theme of the day. Duke was now 7 for 11 on third downs.

Another third down arose for Duke at the Carolina 44. Darius Lipford stepped up to supply big pressure and force a Duke punt.

Switzer sped around the end for a nine yard pickup for UNC. Logan then took the ball for a 14-yard burst that had Carolina off and running yet again.

But a no call on a possible pass interference on Ebron left Coach Fedora fuming on the sidelines. He spent the entire rest of the series yelling at the referees.

A beautiful punt by Hibbard gave Duke the ball at their own three yard line to start their offensive series.

The Carolina defense came to play in the second half. A massive tackle by Malik Simmons on third down and six forced another Duke punt.

Switzer was taken down at the UNC 32 and the Tar Heels were set to start another important drive. And it began on a rough note. A holding penalty backed Carolina up.

But the offense clicked after that. The 12-play, 4:50 drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal for Thomas Moore. He nailed it down the middle to give the Tar Heels a 25-24 lead with 7:03 to play.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Russell Bodine, however, might have cost UNC a chance at a touchdown.

On the next possession, Tre Boston dropped an errant throw by Boone. It should have been an interception. And Boone capitalized on a nice throw over the middle that set Duke up for a good scoring chance at the UNC 33-yard line.

The Tar Heel defense stiffened yet again to hold Duke to a field goal. With 2:22 remaining in the contest, the Blue Devils were clinging to a 27-25 lead.

Thanks to a block in the back penalty, the Carolina offense would start their final drive of the game inside their own 10-yard line.

A face mask penalty helped Carolina’s cause, moving them out to the 25-yard line. A Switzer first down moved the ball to the 36-yard line with just under a minute to go.

Williams picked up a fourth down with his legs, but he threw an easy interception a couple plays later to hand the game over to Duke with 13 seconds remaining in game.

 

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/carolina-reclaims-victory-bell-win-duke/

Breakin’ It Down: Duke

Offense: Simply put, the Tar Heel offensive engine is humming right now. And a lot of that has to do with a rising youth movement that only gained momentum with a pair of Ryan Switzer punt returns last Saturday in Carolina’s 80-20 victory at Chapel Hill. Switzer is joined by fellow youngsters in tailbacks T.J. Logan and Khris Francis, as well as nifty receiver Bug Howard. With their rise, Carolina has an excellent stable of viable options for sophomore quarterback Marquise Williams to pick from. Williams has made a seamless transition into the starting role. He adds a dual threat to Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson’s attack. Not to mention, he is seemingly a perfect fit for the Fedora-style warp-speed philosophy. Through the air, UNC is averaging 292 yards per outing, 23rd best in the country. All-American candidate Eric Ebron is on everyone’s watch list. He is an extraordinary playmaker for the Tar Heels that will be coming to an NFL stadium near you in the near future. Even the offensive line is showing some timely improvement as they have handled some physical defensive fronts in recent weeks. All in all, it appears UNC’s offense is surging as the season winds to a close.

The Blue Devils are led by a dual threat combo at quarterback. Anthony Boone is a dynamic player who can move the chains for Duke. The playmaking wide receiver Jamison Crowder has 1077 yards and 5 touchdowns on the season. He’s always a factor down the field. And with a senior laden offensive line, Duke may have a chance to hold off the Tar Heel rush.

EDGE: DEAD EVEN

Defense: The Tar Heels have seemingly found the formula for success on this end of the field. And a lot of this improvement has to be credited to Coach Vic’s relentless drive in practice and ability to adapt as the season progressed. He sensed his guys were struggling with all the schemes. So what did he do? He simplified. Now senior defensive end Kareem Martin says the Tar Heels have been freed up to really let loose and focus on playing with high energy and lots of passion. It seems to be working. The defense is playing faster and avoiding the dreaded ‘paralysis by analysis.’ Last week, the Tar Heels completely overwhelmed the  ODU offense throughout the contest. With Norkeithus Otis and Kareem Martin continuing to create havoc in opposing backfields, the Duke passing attack may be forced into some less than desirable throws. And the hungry members of the secondary like Tre Boston and Dominique Green will be hungry to scarf up some interceptions.

The Duke defense is a weak point no longer. Duke Head Coach David Cutcliffe has a disciplined unit that keeps the ball in front of them and makes solid tackles, but it remains to be seen whether his defense can withstand the Carolina offensive weaponry. We will see soon enough. But here’s betting we could see some mismatches out there  in Kenan Stadium on Saturday in this category.

EDGE: Carolina

Intangibles: This category is interesting.  Duke has won seven straight and is coming off the heels of back-to-back comeback wins against Miami and Wake Forest. The team believes they will come out with more points on the scoreboard no matter what situation they find themselves in. And they seemingly have more to play for, right? A trip to the ACC Championship is on the line. So edge goes to the Blue Devils, correct?

No way. Carolina is riding a wave of momentum with five straight victories. It’s senior day. It’s Eric Ebron’s last home game as a Tar Heel after announcing he will forgo his senior season to enter the NFL Draft. I don’t think these veteran Tar Heels will forget the upset loss they took at Duke a year ago, either. Kenan Stadium will be slammed. It’s a sell out. Senior Day + Home Game + Extra Motivation = Carolina Edge.

EDGE: Carolina

WRAP-UP:

Grab your popcorn. This one will be entertaining. It will be emotional for both sides. Big plays will be aplenty. The key will be this: Can the Duke secondary hang with the plethora of Carolina receivers for four quarters. Limiting the big plays and forcing the Tar Heels to grind out long drives will be crucial for the Blue Devils’ chances. But if you ask me, I think the Tar Heel offensive explosions continue and Carolina will hang on to reclaim the Victory Bell.

QUICK PICK: Tar Heels  38, Duke 31

http://chapelboro.com/news/breakin-duke/

100th Duke-UNC Meeting Should Be Memorable

CHAPEL HILL–The 6-5 Tar Heels will be looking to spoil 9-2 Duke’s hopes of playing in the ACC Championship Game when they take to the field at Kenan Stadium Saturday for a noon kickoff.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says he’s not surprised at all the success the Blue Devils have been enjoying this season.

“From my experience from last year, yes, because they’re a good football team. The way the league has gone, it’s come done to the wire. It did last year, and it’s doing it this year. Anybody can beat anybody on any given Saturday, and if your team keeps believing and keeps playing well, you can put yourself in that position, and that’s what they’ve done,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora says he is impressed with the Duke defense. He says they are very disciplined, opportunistic and good at taking care of what’s in front of them.

“They got kids that are playing hard. They’re playing some young kids, and they’re in the right position. […] They have a philosophy. They’re very sound in what they do. Their kids are in position. They’re where they’re supposed to be, and they’re making the plays they’re supposed to make,” Coach Fedora says.

Ryan Switzer has tied the ACC regular season punt return record with four returns in the past three games. He has suddenly put it all together. Coach Fedora says he thinks Switzer’s success can be traced to not worrying about all the little things and instead, just letting things happen.

“Now the confidence is there. He’s not worried about catching the football. He’s not thinking about everything that I’ve given to him to think about. He thought when you come out of high school you go back there, and you just catch the ball and run. That’s not the way we do things. He is so comfortable now that he is at that point where he doesn’t have to think now,” Coach Fedora says.

Sophomore signal caller Marquise Williams says he is looking forward to the tough test Duke will provide to Carolina. He says the team will do whatever it takes to walk off with the ‘W’,

“That’s the main focus. It’s a big game for us. It’s going to be a hard thing. That’s a good football team over there, not taking anything from them. […] We just got to do it all to win this football game. I don’t care if it’s 3-0 or 6-3, as long as we win this football game. That’s all that matters to me,” Williams says.

The 100th meeting between the two institutions is sure to be one not to miss.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/100th-duke-unc-meeting-memorable/

A Chat with a Blue Devil Senior Leader: Duke’s Dave Harding

WCHL’s Matt Oakes had the chance to speak with Duke senior offensive guard Dave Harding as his team prepares for the rivalry showdown against the Tar Heels on Saturday.

The two chatted about Duke’s 2013 success, Head Coach David Cutcliffe, and what this UNC-Duke rivalry really means.

***Listen to the interview***

Dave Harding-Duke

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/chat-blue-devil-senio-leader-dukes-dave-harding/

Duke Victory Bell Videos ‘Getting Old’ for Ryan Switzer

CHAPEL HILL– The Tar Heels can finish the regular season with a 7-5 record with a win against Duke this Saturday. That would make six straight wins. Few would have thought Carolina would be playing such a meaningful game the final weekend of the regular season.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says he’s not surprised at all. He never had any doubts of an eventual Tar Heel turnaround.

“I never doubted it actually. I knew if we continued to get a little bit better, if we continued to believe, hold this team together, they keep working hard and have great attitudes, there was no doubt in my mind,” Coach Fedora says.

And like a broken record, Coach Fedora continues to hammer home the patented mantra of the 2013 Carolina football season.

“That’s what they’ve done. They focused on being 1-0 each week. They’ve given one more inch. They’ve found a way, and they’ve done whatever it takes. Again, that will be our entire focus this week,” Coach Fedora says.

Freshman sensation Ryan Switzer says he’s getting tired of Coach Fedora’s motivational tactics. He says those videos, of the Duke team spray painting the Victory Bell after last season’s defeat, are getting old. 

“Here we go again. They did the same thing with N.C. State. It gets tiring looking at it on the TV’s all day-in the weight room, training room, and locker room. It gets old. I just can’t wait for Saturday to get here, where we can finally just go out and play and not worry about all that,” Switzer says.

Revenge is no doubt on the minds of Carolina. In fact, Switzer says the Tar Heels couldn’t imagine a better way to end the season.

“It’s a big game for us. It’s a big game for them. They’re on the run of their lives right now and have been playing great ball as of late. To finish up at home against a rival like that and one who has so much on the line, as do we. It makes for a big game, an ESPN game. We wouldn’t want to finish the season any other way, to be honest,” Switzer says.

http://chapelboro.com/sports/unc-sports/duke-victory-bell-videos-getting-old-ryan-switzer/