Sunday, October 27, 2019

UNC Defeats Duke in Dramatic Fashion to Reclaim Victory Bell

CHAPEL HILL – There were eighteen seconds left on the clock. The UNC crowd, clamoring for the return of the famed Victory Bell after four long years, was on their feet, yelling at the top of their lungs, willing their team’s defense to make a play and keep their rivals from Duke out of the end zone. The Devils had marched the length of the field after a critical fumble had turned the ball over and kept the Tar Heels from with only a 20-17 lead.

Somebody needed to make a play. Chazz Surratt was that somebody. The junior from East Lincoln, who had moved from quarterback to linebacker in the offseason, was told by safeties coach Jay Bateman to be on the lookout for a quick pop pass down on the goal line. As Surratt was moving into position during the play, a Duke player faked a run and tried a “jump” pass to catch the UNC defense off guard. The ball came towards Surratt and as he came down with the interception, the Kenan faithful roared with excitement and the celebration was on.

“This is becoming a hard place to play. It’s hard to hear. I don’t remember that all the time from when I was here before. This may be the best environment I’ve seen here,” Coach Mack Brown said in his postgame press conference, crediting the Kenan Stadium crowd for keeping the Heels in the game and keeping Duke on their toes. North Carolina and Duke had met 105 previous times on the gridiron.

Even though North Carolina came into the 2019 “Battle for the Victory Bell” with a 60-41-4 lead in the series overall, the tide had turned as of late and Duke came into the game with a three-game winning streak. Only five players on the UNC roster had been a part of the Tar Heels squad who had won the Victory Bell which made Saturday night’s 20-17 win that much sweeter. “This is really an emotional time for them, a fun time for them, beating their rival, and getting the bell back. They may be ringing all night down there,” Brown quipped after the game.

Both defenses came to play during the first half and there was no better player to showcase this than UNC’s Dominique Ross. Ross stepped up big time for the Carolina defense in the second quarter, picking off a Duke pass and forcing a fumble on another possession to bookend the period. The UNC offense was unable to take advantage of either of these turnovers, though, keeping the game a close 7-3 going into the half.

Although there was little offense in the first half, with the teams combining for only ten points, the third quarter saw a total of twenty-four points scored with the Duke offense finally finding the end zone on an eleven-yard pass from Quentin Harris to Scott Bracey to cut the lead to four points. After Jalen Alexander picked off a tipped pass to open the next drive, Harris ran seven yards on the keeper to give the Devils their first lead of the day. A Noah Ruggles field goal tied the game and set up a fourth-quarter that UNC students would live to tell about as it was the first time they had beaten their rivals in their time on campus.

While true freshman quarterback Sam Howell has been the focus of most of the coverage of the Tar Heels offense this season, the three-headed monster in the backfield of Antonio Williams, Michael Carter, and Javonte Williams has played just as large of a role in the offensive success of UNC in fourth quarters this year. A big Javonte Williams run got UNC into scoring position and when Ruggles hit his second field goal of the day with seven minutes left in the game, the home team faithful came alive as the chances for reclaiming the Victory Bell increased with every down. When Chazz Surratt intercepted a Duke pass and the Tar Heels took a knee to run out the clock, the players celebrated and brought the Victory Bell all the way across the length of the field to the Tar Heels student section where cheers were so loud they could be heard on Franklin Street.

Noteworthy Notes
The Battle for the Victory Bell began in 1948 with North Carolina first earning possession following a 20-0 win. Head cheerleaders from Duke and North Carolina decided on the idea and obtaining a bell from an old railroad train to serve as a trophy for the victors.
With the win, Mack Brown, in his second stint in Chapel Hill, is now the winningest coach in UNC history, surpassing Dick Crum.
Coming into the game, UNC had ranked first in the conference with a +38 fourth quarter point differential. Today’s game increased that differential to +41.

Notable North Carolinians
Sam Howell (Sun Valley) – the true freshman tossed two touchdown passes on the day, giving him twenty-two on the season and leaving him only ten shy of the program record currently held by Chicago Bears QB Mitch Trubisky.
Chazz Surratt (East Lincoln) – after making a switch to linebacker this season, the junior has been a force for the UNC defense, leading the team with twelve tackles and a sack on the day while sealing the victory with an interception at the goal line.
Austin Parker (Mount Pleasant) – the redshirt senior averaged almost fifty yards per punt on the day with four of his seven punts being downed inside the twenty-yard line.

Next Week
North Carolina (4-4) hosts Coastal Division leader Virginia while Duke (4-4) is off before traveling to take on Notre Dame the following Saturday.