Carolina is 0-3 in Charlotte bowl games, losing to Boston College in 2004, West Virginia in 2008 and Pittsburgh in 2009.
The Tar Heels are losing offensive coordinator Blake Anderson, who was named head coach at Arkansas State on Thursday.
They are playing a Cincinnati team that is the No. 9 defense in the nation and is allowing less than 100 yards rushing per game.
The challenge to Larry Fedora and his squad in the Belk Bowl Dec. 28 is to overcome those and handful of additional obstacles and end their 2013 season on a winning note. Carolina is 6-6, having bounced back from a 1-5 start but still smarting from a season-ending loss at home to Duke.
Fedora looks at a small but tight senior class that includes the likes of tight end Eric Ebron, tackle James Hurst, running back A.J. Blue, defensive linemen Kareem Martin and Tim Jackson and defensive backs Jabari Price and Tre Boston and laments the Heels couldn’t send them out winners in a 27-25 loss to Duke. They have one last chance against the 9-3 Bearcats next Saturday in Bank of America Stadium.
“You think about what this senior class has been through,” Fedora says. “They came in with the start of the NCAA investigation and saw that through. They had to be the ones to bear the weight of the sanctions. They’ve been through three head coaches and two staffs. Kareem Martin has had five position coaches. These are the guys who held the team together at 1-5. We want to win this one for them.”
Though Anderson was not going to be involved in Arkansas State’s Jan. 5 GoDaddy Bowl against Ball State, he was not expected as of Thursday to be with the Tar Heels any longer. Fedora said on Thursday he and the offensive staff would handle the game plan and play-calling internally with the details to be worked out closer to the bowl game.
“Nothing changes,” QB Marquise Williams said after Thursday’s practice. “We’ll have the same game plan, run the same plays. We had a great practice today, the tempo and attitude were great.”
Anderson did say at his Arkansas State press conference there was a chance he would finish the season at Carolina, but he had Fedora as of Friday morning had yet to have a substantive conversation along those lines.
“This was going to happen at some point,” Fedora said of Anderson landing a head coaching job. “We’ve had too much success with what we’ve been doing for six years for him not to have that opportunity. That’s been a dream of his for a long time.”