|A gloomy day in Chapel Hill didn’t stop the fans – nor the Heels – from showing up. | Photo: Chris White
It was a gloomy day in Chapel Hill on Saturday, but not in Kenan Stadium.
North Carolina’s season-opening loss to South Carolina seems like a long time ago. The Heels have been on a roll since, winning seven straight games including a comeback at preseason ACC Coastal favorite Georgia Tech and a pivotal Thursday night matchup on the road against Pittsburgh. That culminated in a 7-1 overall record and an undefeated mark in ACC play going into the game against Duke on Saturday.
Like all rivalry games, I knew the stakes would be high. But this game was the biggest in recent memory for both teams, with the winner controlling its own destiny to the Coastal division crown and, of course, having bragging rights and the Victory Bell until the teams meet again in 2016. I’ve been to many a UNC/Duke football game but none have felt as huge as the game on Saturday. There was much more on the line than just a bell from a train and that feeling broke through the grey clouds in Chapel Hill. Every player, coach and fan in Kenan Stadium knew it.
I was nervous heading into the game. Duke’s defense was the best the Heels had faced up to this point in the season. It’s no secret that the Blue Devils’ Jeremy Cash and company can do a lot of things to mess up an opposing team’s offensive flow. But that wasn’t really the case on Saturday as the Heels virtually shut down the nationally-ranked Blue Devils’ defense. Beginning with this play…
Although that play made it just 7-0 Heels, it seemed like it would set the tone for the game – and it did. Carolina made big play after big play on offense, racking up more yards and points on Duke in just the first half than the Blue Devils had allowed in a game all season. That, along with the Heels’ defense making plays when it counted, ultimately led to Carolina putting a beatdown on its arch rival, by a score of 66-31, to move to 8-1 on the season and 5-0 in ACC play. If the Heels can win against Miami and Pittsburgh beat Duke this Saturday, Carolina will punch its ticket to Charlotte and the ACC Championship Game. If that scenario doesn’t happen, Carolina can also win two of its final three games to get to Charlotte.
I can’t think of a time when I’ve been more excited for Carolina Football than now. Although I’m an N.C. State grad, I will always and forever bleed Carolina blue. I have my mom and my late grandmother to thank for that. The football program has experienced a lot of turmoil in the past several years, both on and off the field. Despite the negativity of the past, this team has come together under strong leadership to produce a winning program in Chapel Hill. I don’t have any personal friends who play on the team, but I feel like I do given the way many of the players interact with fans whether in person or on social media. There are several players whom I’ve met through Carolina’s “Meet the Heels” event and many of the same I’ve had the pleasure of talking to via social media. Having that makes me feel like I’m not only a fan but I’m apart of the team. I’m forever grateful for it and I know other Heels fans feel the same.
This has been one heck of a ride for Carolina Football. I can’t wait to see how the rest of the season turns out. The sky’s the limit for this team.