The game will play out on Saturday afternoon in Kenan Stadium, but Michael Carter knows the real rivalry will play out over the next year all over the Triangle — whether it’s school cafeterias, conference rooms, or perhaps even the most hallowed of locations.
“You have to hear about it for a long time,” he said. “You might go into Bojangles’ and you might see a guy from Duke, he might want to talk some trash. It’d feel good to have the bell and be able to talk that back.”
For the past three years — and five of the last seven — the Victory Bell has resided in Durham in a serious reversal from two decades of dominance by North Carolina. Prior to the Blue Devils’ recent success, the Tar Heels had won 21 of 22 games in the series from 1990-2011.
The run of three straight for Duke means that just eight of the 116 players on the Carolina roster were around for the 2015 victory, and seven seniors are facing their last opportunity to get their hands on the bell.
Linebacker Cater is one of those seniors, and the streak began his freshman season, watching the Blue Devils run across the field after they pulled off a stunning 28-27 victory at Wallace Wade Stadium in 2016.
It’s an image that sticks with the Tar Heels.
“That game is over and you see another team run across and take something that you know is yours deep down, it just adds more fuel to the fire,” he said.
That fire is certainly burning, but it’s not one the older Tar Heels have spent much time talking about this week, as they’ve had bigger priorities in bouncing back from Saturday night’s loss at Virginia Tech.
The point remains, though, that this group doesn’t want to become the first senior class to lose four straight games to Duke since the Blue Devils won seven straight from 1950-56.
“We haven’t really talked about it much, but we know we’ve got to get it done,” senior linebacker Dominique Ross said. “You’re not fixing to sweep us, we’ve got to go get it.”
For younger players, the chance to help the seniors accomplish something they have yet to achieve in Chapel Hill is another bonus as the Tar Heels try to stay in the hunt for a Coastal Division title.
It was actually the wild 66-31 victory in 2015 that persuaded Brian Anderson that he wanted to come to Carolina.
“When Marquise Williams ran the flea flicker and chunked it to Switz … to open up the game, that was just a crazy atmosphere and something that was awesome for me to experience, and so I’m hoping to experience that too, myself, and hopefully the seniors, give them that opportunity, too.”
Unable to play in last season’s game after surgery, linebacker Jeremiah Gemmell has urged his teammates to put in an extra 15-20 minutes of work every day this week.
“I feel like everybody needs to put in a little bit more extra time in the film room, the weight room … stay after practice, catch routes,” he said. “Just visualize yourself making plays and we can get to that point we need to be at.”
It’s not particularly tough for Gemmell to find extra motivation to stay late this week.
Asked to characterized his feelings toward Duke, Gemmell had a simple reply.
“Duke,” he said. “D-O-O-K.”