It was total domination from the opening whistle, just as the Tar Heel coaches hoped and thought it might be.
“The first zone play we knocked their two D-tackles off the ball,” O-line coach Chris Kapilovic said. “The kids came to the sideline and said, ‘Coach, we can knock them off the ball.”
“To be honest with you, I knew we could knock them off the ball,” offensive coordinator Seth Littrell added.
The Tar Heels hammered out an average of 5.5 yards a pop rushing the ball and 591 yards total offense Thursday night in pounding old-rival Duke 45-20 at Wallace Wade Stadium and in front of a national TV audience on ESPN.
And it could have been much, much worse. QB Marquise Williams got sloppy with the ball in the second quarter, losing fumbles on three straight possessions. Tar Heel defenders dropped two interceptions that could have gone to the house. A 28-7 halftime lead could easily have been 49-7.
“We came in at halftime with a bitter taste in our mouths,” QB coach Keith Heckendorf said. “We felt we left a lot out there. It was important to set the tone for the second half to come out and finish a drive like we’re capable of. Marquise did a great job of getting back to basics, making good decisions and taking what the defense was giving him.”
Indeed, after stopping Duke on a three-and-out to open the third quarter, Carolina drove 68 yards on 15 plays, distributing the ball among five players, scoring to go up 35-7 and the outcome was never in doubt. The Victory Bell returned home to Chapel Hill, where it had been for 21 of 22 years from 1990-2011.
“What a great performance and a fun night,” said Tar Heel Letterman Roge Purgason, who organized a reunion of some two dozen Carolina players from the 1994 team that beat Duke 41-40 in Durham. “I’ve seen guys tonight I haven’t seen in 20 years. It was a great celebration of Tar Heel football.”
Now the Tar Heels are left to wrap their season up against N.C. State Saturday in Kenan Stadium. A victory would give them a winning record at 7-5 and put them in position for one of the mid-level ACC bowl tie-ins—perhaps a game in Jacksonville, Nashville, El Paso or New York.
“We’ll have no problem re-focusing and getting ready for that game,” Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora said. “It’s the team in red.”