The Victory Bell resided in Chapel Hill for 21 of 22 years from 1990 to 2011 thanks to the Tar Heels’ total domination of Duke on the football field. The establishment of a solid program under Blue Devils coach David Cutcliffe and the hiccups at Carolina during a coaching transition and off-the-field distractions have given Duke an opportunity it’s seized.
Duke’s Jamison Crowder snared a fourth-down pass between Tar Heels Tim Scott and Kevin Reddick for the winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play in Durham in 2012, staking Duke to a 33-30 win.
And the Blue Devils used a 99-yard kickoff return and a late-game field from Ross Martin to make it two in a row, edging the Tar Heels 27-25 last November in Kenan Stadium.
All of which leaves the Tar Heels with a sour taste in their mouths as they enter their 7:30 p.m. game at Duke Thursday on ESPN.
* “Yes, absolutely, I’ve got friends on their team, so it’s extra personal for me,” says guard Landon Turner.
* “This is the thing we live for, big-time games on ESPN,” says quarterback Marquise Williams. “I’m excited for his game to finally get here and give us a chance to get the bell back.
* “Two years ago over there, they came over and took our bell and spray painted it in front of us,” linebacker Jeff Schoettmer adds. “That was not good. It was painful to see the seniors go out that way. Then last year, we’re up the whole game and it was tough to lose that one. Guys have a chip on their shoulder. They’re ready to go.”
* “This game could get us bowl eligible, we could get the bell back and we can beat Duke, three things in one game,” says Scott. “That’s enough motivation as it is.”
Obviously the Tar Heels need to play well on offense as they’ve done in games this year against Georgia Tech, Notre Dame, Virginia and Pittsburgh. They can’t have errors in the kicking game—as in allowing a kickoff for a return as they did against Duke last year and having bad center snaps on punts and extra points as they have the last two weeks.
And the defense has to get off the field on third down. Carolina is allowing nearly 50 percent opponent conversions, 121st worst in the NCAA universe of 125 FBS teams.
The game marks the 20th reunion of the 1994 game in which the Tar Heels edge Duke 41-40. Some two dozen former Tar Heels will attend as a group in an effort led by former tackle Roge Purgason.
“I think that ’94 game is the best game in the rivalry’s history,” says Purgason, who lives in his hometown of Charlotte. “It’s the only time both teams have been ranked in the top 25 when they played and both gone to a bowl game the same year. That’s a reason to celebrate a great game and Tar Heel football. I’ve had this in the back of my mind for some time and have been waiting for the 20-year mark.”