North Carolina-Duke Preview: Will the Victory Bell Change Hands?
ESPN’s College GameDay will not be coming to Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday for the 7:00 PM kickoff, and North Carolina’s sloppy performance and Duke’s 41-20 loss have lessened some of the excitement. But North Carolina (5-2, 2-1) and Duke (5-2, 2-1) still have the potential to put on a great show for the fans.
North Carolina held up their end of the bargain with a win, but barely. Nothing about the Tar Heels’ 18-14 win at Miami last Saturday was particularly inspiring, unless you like penalties (15 for 140 yards). Carolina’s defense played perhaps its best game of the year, but Miami hurt itself with dropped passes and penalties.
The biggest difference in the game could be Carolina tailback Giovani Bernard, whose 239 all-purpose yards at Miami were a very bright spot. Bernard’s big day, combined with Duke allowing Virginia Tech to put up 269 yards rushing, caused some to predict Bernard would have a huge day against the Blue Devils. And the Duke defense, coming off of allowing 41 unanswered points at Virginia Tech, wasn’t too happy.
“That’s like saying a guy is going to go first round in the draft. You don’t know that. Something can happen,” Duke defensive end Kenny Anunike said. “That’s all speculation. We’re not going to let that get to us. We’re just going to continue to prepare this week as we are right now and just keep on working to make sure that that doesn’t happen.”
Anunike is the picture of positivity at all times – his favorite saying is “just a minor setback for a major comeback” – but even he seemed sick of answering questions about Virginia Tech on Tuesday: “Like my mom always said, you can’t cry over spilled milk. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve got to just pour some more.”
Cornerback Ross Cockrell is careful in what he says to the media, but he looked visibly annoyed when asked about Bernard’s projected stats. “I would say that’s why we play the games,” Cockrell said with a shrug. “If it was that easy, then we’d probably just – I guess we’d just give up every game and just let the analysts say whatever they have to say about it.”
And no analyst could have predicted some of the strange moments in this rivalry over the years. Rather than obsess too much over the numbers, let’s take a look at some of the odder moments.
Moments in North Carolina-Duke history: I was going through old issues of The Daily Tar Heel while doing research for a book on North Carolina basketball a few years ago, And thankfully, I discovered that this happened (from the November 21, 1933 issue):
During the Carolina-Duke football game, “there occurred an accident which missed being a tragedy by only a few inches when the trident of the official Duke blue devil struck a University student in the back. In some miraculous manner the student was not seriously hurt, although it must have been rather painful, but it also seems remarkable to us that after the days of high feelings a student outbreak was averted.” The Chief Cheerleader averted a riot and after everyone saw he wasn’t seriously hurt, “the crowd gave much of its sympathy to the unfortunate blue devil who had hurled the spear.”
The craziest part? In a February 10, 1939 DTH, it was reported that the student who was struck by a trident was killed an automobile accident. More detail was given about what happened: he was in the last row of the marching band when the Blue Devil overthrew the spear and it pierced his back right above his hips. The fork was cut out on the field in an emergency operation and the wound was treated with “anti-toxin”. He stayed in the hospital for several weeks.
The Blue Devil almost killed a guy with a trident!
The mental image of Dan Orner running through Duke’s inflatable football helmet after his game-winning 47-yarder in 2002 is perhaps one of the funnier moments in the history of the rivalry. Via Inside Carolina, here was Orner’s explanation for that:
I had a dream I was going to kick a game-winner at [Kenan Stadium] and run out the opposite side of the stadium and all the way down to Franklin Street. I said to myself that it would me nice if I could run through that [inflatable Duke] helmet after I kick the game-winner. I was floating.
Okay, then. And also from that game, former Carolina WR Sam Aiken’s thoughts on retaining the Victory Bell:
We put it right back in the locker room. Before we go in the shower, we go ring it. Everybody dances around naked and just… (laughter from media drowns out the last few words.)
The first game film at Duke to be shot in color, this Carolina-Duke game took place on November 15, 1941. Duke won 20-0 and wrapped up an invitation to the Rose Bowl.
Prediction: North Carolina, 34-30. Duke struggled to stop the run last week against a Virginia Tech team that has been struggling to run the ball. Although Duke is getting some guys back on the defensive line, it will arguably be facing the second-best offensive line it has seen (since Stanford). If Duke can stop Bernard, it should win the game. But that’s easier said than done, as Bernard has shown against every opponent he has faced this year. North Carolina is still undefeated with him in the lineup. If North Carolina forgets about him for too long, or hurts itself with mistakes as it did last week against Miami, Duke has a great opportunity to win.
North Carolina is slowly gaining confidence, particularly offensively, and Duke seemed frustrated after their 41-20 loss at Virginia Tech, even on Monday. Duke went into last week’s game feeling pretty good about itself, only to get run out of Blacksburg in the second half. They can’t let that game beat them twice. For North Carolina, beating Miami might have hurt the Tar Heels more than helped them if they aren’t cognizant of needing to play a cleaner game. If Duke is able to channel their frustration and anger over last week’s game the right way, they’re more than capable of winning. But if North Carolina plays relatively mistake-free football and is able to get ahead of Duke early, it could be a long night for Duke.