Duke visits UNC hoping to keep hold of Victory Bell
By JOEDY McCREARY
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Duke is trying to do something even more difficult for the Blue Devils than winning the Victory Bell: keeping hold of it.
The Blue Devils (3-0) begin Atlantic Coast Conference play on Saturday by visiting North Carolina (1-2, 0-1) in an earlier-than-usual renewal of their fierce Tobacco Road rivalry.
Duke claimed the traveling trophy by knocking off the ranked Tar Heels 28-27 last year in Durham. The challenge now is to keep possession of it for another year - and the only way to do that, of course, is to beat North Carolina for a second straight year.
Duke receiver Johnathan Lloyd says the bell has been kept in the hallway on the first floor of the Blue Devils' team headquarters, "so you can see it, ring it as you go by." He added that, while he was in an early-week meeting with coach David Cutcliffe, someone rang it loudly.
"Very fitting," he said. "I haven't (kept ownership of) it since I've been here, so I want to keep it until I leave."
The only Duke team in the past 27 years to beat the Tar Heels for a second consecutive season was one of the best in school history - the 2013 group that claimed an unlikely ACC Coastal Division championship and a spot in the league title game.
Before that, the last Duke team to maintain possession of the painted bell on wheels was the 1989 crew led by Steve Spurrier that routed the Tar Heels 41-0 in Chapel Hill - then posed for a photo in front of the Kenan Stadium scoreboard.
The Blue Devils have brought some balance back to a one-sided rivalry, winning three of five meetings after North Carolina claimed 21 of the 22 matchups before that.
Duke has won all three games this season by at least two touchdowns, including a 34-20 victory over Baylor last week in which the Bears hit three big plays for touchdowns but were otherwise neutralized by a stout Blue Devils defense. North Carolina is coming off a road victory at Old Dominion after losing home games to California and No. 19 Louisville.
"I saw progress," UNC coach Larry Fedora said.
Some things to know about the Victory Bell rivalry:
DUKE'S D: The Blue Devils have the nation's No. 1 run defense , allowing fewer than 48 yards rushing per game. They've held all three opponents to fewer than 100 yards on the ground, and Northwestern's Justin Jackson had a career-worst 18 yards two weeks ago.
OR?: There wasn't much clarity on the Tar Heels' depth chart, with the word "or" appearing 11 times - including at quarterback, tailback, two wide receiver spots and all four positions along the defensive line.
ONE WHO GOT AWAY: North Carolina QB Chazz Surratt initially committed to the Blue Devils in 2015 before flipping his commitment to a lighter shade of blue. Fedora says Surratt "wasn't real sure" when he first picked Duke, and "deep down in his heart, this is probably where he wanted to go the whole time, and he just had to find the right time to make that decision."
SERIES NOTES: This will be the 104th renewal of the rivalry, and the Tar Heels have dominated it over the long haul, holding a 61-38-4 advantage. Eight of the last 12 meetings have been decided by eight or fewer points, including last year's one-point game. Duke's last three wins have been by a combined six points, while UNC's victories in 2015 and '14 were by 35 and 25 points.
WHY SO SOON?: The schools are playing in September for the first time due to a scheduling quirk. Duke, which opened with three home games, preferred a road game in Week 4 to keep its schedule balanced. North Carolina was the only one of Duke's scheduled ACC opponents that had an opening this week and was due to host the Blue Devils. "Sure is warm for November, isn't it?" Cutcliffe quipped. "Must be November because we're playing North Carolina."
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Updated September 22, 2017