UNC Football hopes for third straight win over rival Duke

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Carolina’s home game with Duke marks the first of a three-game home game at Kenan Stadium for the Tar Heels. UNC is favored against the Blue Devils and is expected to be favored again next week against Florida State. To get their season back on track, these next three home games are all must-have wins for head coach Mack Brown and his company.

Brown said morale within the team remains high, while acknowledging that he and the rest of the coaching staff need to let the growing talent of the team flourish.

“The practice has been really good. The guys are focused. They understand that we have not lived up to our expectations, ”Brown told reporters on Wednesday. “We have better players than record. There is a transition between being good and being awesome. And we were all hoping in the preseason… that we would have taken that step now and we didn’t.

Despite the score books making the Tar Heels the 20-point favorites, Brown said the Blue Devils are a very dangerous team, with one having won three straight after losing their first game to Charlotte. For Brown, you have to be wary of a hot team like Duke.

“Confidence is so essential, and now we have to regain our confidence,” he said. “And Duke has tremendous confidence in the game. They move the ball, they have fun, they win. And we are coming out of a very difficult defeat. But I think the advantage for us is that we are at home. We are 10-4 [at home in the last three seasons], our audience has been wonderful. And since we’ve been here we’ve played well at home.

Carolina has won the last two games against Duke, including a 2019 Chapel Hill thriller decided on Chazz Surratt’s goal line interception. The Tar Heels haven’t won three straight battles for the Victory Bell since 2011.

Running back Mataeo Durant will be looking to break Duke’s losing streak. Durant has scored eight rushing touchdowns this season, which is the total of all UNC rushers combined. Durant is also averaging six yards per carry and will face a rushed Carolina defense that was torn apart by Georgia Tech in Week 4.

“I have a lot of respect for him as a football player,” said UNC defensive coordinator Jay Bateman. “I think he’s a really complete football player. He catches it, he blocks, he’s a very physical runner… I think he’s fast, I think he’s tough. I think when he has square shoulders he’s a very difficult guy to face. I think he’s a very, very good player.

The Blue Devils offense also ranks in the nation’s top 10 for third down percentage, converting nearly 56 percent of the third downs faced. UNC’s defense, meanwhile, is tied for 82nd in the nation, allowing opposing attacks to convert 40% of third-down chances. But senior linebacker Tomon Fox remains confident he and the Tar Heels will be able to neutralize a strong attack from Duke.

“Duke is very efficient in the racing game,” he said. “So I think that’s what sets up their third downs, not putting them in difficult situations or situations that they can’t reach. But I have the impression that they are also doing a good job in their passing game. Start the fast routes, make sure they convert down rather than going for the big game. But I feel like from the movie on, we’ll be able to handle that.

Sitting at 2-2 after four games, UNC’s higher ambitions for the 2021 season may have gone up in smoke, but Mack Brown made it a priority to win games in the state upon his return to Chapel. Hill in December 2018. And since returning, the Tar Heels are 6-2 against opponents North Carolina.

Featured Image via Associated Press


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