It’s another rivalry game for North Carolina, who is coming off back to back games against Virginia and Georgia Tech. Up this week is cross-town rival Duke – the Tar Heels welcome the Blue Devils to Kenan Stadium with the Victory Bell on the line. Kick-off is set for noon Saturday on WBT.
The Heels are struggling right now. They got hammered by the Yellow Jackets in Atlanta last week, falling to 2-2 and out of the national rankings. And to add insult to injury, Duke is pretty darn good! The Blue Devils are 3-1 on the year, their sole loss was close one to the Charlotte 49ers. Of course, none of those wins are over conference opponents – they beat NC A&T, Northwestern and Kansas – but still, they’ve got a better record than the Heels.
So what happens Saturday? Look for Duke to run, run, and run some more. Duke has new quarterback this season in Gunnar Holmberg. The senior has been effective if not spectacular, throwing for 1,140 yards and three touchdowns. He’s also run for 159 yards and six touchdowns. Holmberg’s favorite target is senior receiver Jake Bobo, he leads the ACC with 34 catches. But the reason the Blue Devils rank 8th nationally in total offense is Mataeo Durant. The senior running back has picked up 522 rushing yards and eight touchdowns on the season, ranking him third in the nation! Thanks to Durant, Duke ranks 13th in the country in rushing offense. That might just strike some fear into UNC’s collective heart, considering the Yellow Jackets literally ran all over the Tar Heels last week to the tune of 261 yards on the ground.
On the other side of the ball, Duke’s defense isn’t so great, they’ve allowed more than 400 yards in three of their four games, including 530 against Kansas last week. Shaka Heyward is a standout at linebacker, he leads the ACC in tackles. Safety Lummie Young IV (gotta love that name!) anchors the secondary. But after losing a pair of defensive linemen to the NFL, Duke’s front line isn’t getting much pressure on opposing quarterbacks. That’s good news for the Tar Heels, who are last in the ACC and 123rd in the nation with 17 sacks allowed in four games.
After fumbling times last week, UNC quarterback Sam Howell has to get back on track against Duke. The junior has thrown for close to 1,000 yards in the last three games with 10 touchdown passes.
After getting beat by a 1-2 Georgia Tech team, UNC is surely not underestimating their Tobacco Road rival. The Blue Devils always seem to play their best football against the Tar Heels – they’ve won three of the last five in this series, although the Heels hammered them by 32 points last season. Sure, this doesn’t have quite the same feel as a UNC-Duke basketball game. But it’s still a rivalry, and both teams want that Victory Bell. I say UNC gets it done and keeps the bell in Chapel Hill. Go Tar Heels!
by Sharon Thorsland