No. 15 UNC, Duke adjust to short turnaround for rivalry game
DURHAM, N.C. (AP) The latest renewal of the North Carolina-Duke rivalry has an added challenge this year: a short turnaround.
The 15th-ranked Tar Heels and Blue Devils meet Thursday night, five days after playing Atlantic Coast Conference home games. That means less time for players to recover physically while both teams cram more prep work into a compressed schedule, enough so that Duke coach David Cutcliffe joked he wasn't sure what day it was when he met with reporters Monday morning.
''Hopefully they did what we asked them to do: they went home and went to bed early Saturday night,'' Cutcliffe said of his players.
From the moment Saturday's games ended, the clock started for the nearby rivals to look ahead to their 103rd meeting. The schedule for the Tar Heels (7-2, 5-1 ACC) and Blue Devils (3-6, 0-5) typically features a light Sunday workout more geared toward recovery, then day off on Monday.
But Cutcliffe said the Blue Devils' Sunday workout was a bit busier than usual following a 24-21 loss to No. 18 Virginia Tech, while UNC receiver Ryan Switzer said the Tar Heels had Sunday off. Both teams were practicing Monday afternoon, prompting Tar Heels linebacker Andre Smith to say the schedule felt ''a little off'' after practice ended in the evening.
There is also a heavier emphasis on getting players in the training room to treat nagging bumps and bruises.
''I wouldn't say it makes it tougher,'' Duke right tackle Casey Blaser said. ''I'd say it just puts a little bit more on the players individually where obviously we don't have as much practice time or film time.
''So on your own, during the practice reps, you have to make every rep count since practice is a little bit shorter. And then you have to be watching film on your own a little bit more and getting better at studying your opponent.''
While Duke lost by three points for the second straight week, Larry Fedora's Tar Heels are coming off one of their most complete performances of the season: a 48-20 home win against Georgia Tech coming out of a bye week.
''When you go with a short week, it's more about making sure they're mentally fresh and their bodies are ready to go on Thursday night,'' Fedora said. ''So we can't practice the way we normally practice in a week.''
The teams faced this scenario two years ago entering a Thursday night game in Durham, down to the Blue Devils coming off a close loss to the Hokies - that time after an 8-1 start. The Tar Heels, in a struggle-filled season marred by a historically bad defense, won that one 45-20 to snap a two-game skid in the series.
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