CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – Last year the Battle for the Bell wasn’t decided until the final 14 seconds. This year’s version was over after the first half. The Tar heels built a 32 point halftime lead beating the Duke Blue Devils 56-24 at Wallace Wade Stadium taking the Victory Bell back to Chapel Hill.
“All of us, starting with me, need to evaluate what we have to do better,” said head coach David Cutcliffe. “Not can we do something better, what we have to do better to get results.”
UNC’s constant pressure on quarterback Chase Brice held him to just 155 yards passing, no TD’s and harassed him in to throwing another pick. Meanwhile Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell had no trouble moving his unit downfield an finding the end zone on their first 6 possession.
“They came out the first half and threw a couple punches, made some big plays and we dug ourselves in a hole,” said Duke Defensive end Chris Rumph II. “Give them credit they got a good quarterback, good running backs and they have a balance attack so you know you just have to give them credit for what they did.”
“We were ready to play, we knew what to do and how to do it we just got behind the eight ball,” said Duke head coach David Cutcliffe. “When you go down 14 to nothing my whole message was don’t panic. We needed to respond on offense and we didn’t get that done.”
Once again North Carolinas running backs id the most damage. As a team they rushed for 338 total yards. Javonte Williams had the bulk of that with 151 yards rushing and 3 TD’s on the ground. He added another 24 yards receiving and another score to give him 4 TD’s on the day.
“They’re great players,” said coach Cutcliffe. “If you’re not going to tackle well you’re not going to be very successful against those guys and they’ve got an outstanding offensive front. They are really a powerful good offense of football team all the way around.”
With 5 minutes to go in the 3rd quarter and the game out of hand Gunner Holmberg took over at quarterback for Chase Brice. He went 7 of 9 for 71 yards and led the team on a 10-play scoring drive that covered 51 yards and made it 56-24.
“Gunner is a different style of quarterback and we wanted to run the quarterback a little bit more,” said coach Cutcliffe. “No big deal about it, no indication or meaning behind it. He’s been injured since he’s been here so when you’re in a number one and number two you like to get that guy some reps and it gives us a chance to evaluate Gunner.”
The loss drops the Blue Devils to 2-6 overall, 1-6 in conference play. It seems like Duke takes one step forward but then takes two steps back. They have another bye week coming up which gives them an extra week to heal up and get things straightened out before they face Wake Forest in Durham on the 21st.
“We got to go back to the drawing board, take this bye week and get back to getting back to the passer,” said Rumph.
“It’s a very difficult time in the program you know as I told the players when you get stunned you see that look in people’s eye and things get quiet,” said coach Cutcliffe. “There’s two responses and one is to run from it and the other is to run to it.”
One thing is for certain. The problems with the Duke football team will be addressed head on. The team will be different. What it will look like is anyone’s guess but it will be better. Coach Cutcliffe knows no other way to do things.