by Mike Potter
BROOKS FOOTBALL BUILDING/DURHAM Duke hasn’t had the kind of football season Blue Devil fans might have been dreaming of, but the team still has a chance to end the campaign on a very nice note.
UNC (6-5, 3-4), which has already locked up a bowl bid should the Tar Heels choose to accept one, will come to Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday at 3:30 still smarting from a hurtful 29-25 loss to N.C. State seven days earlier.
The Tar Heels’ rivalry with NCSU is a hot one, but for Duke there’s no bigger one than the annual now-Coastal Division clash with UNC, which leads the series 56-36-4 and has won six straight battles for the storied Victory Bell.
“This is a big rivalry,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said in his weekly press luncheon on Tuesday. “And our responsibility to it is to get some wins. We just haven’t been doing our part in it lately.
“I think it’s very evident that the culture has changed here over the past three years (since he took over as coach). We’ve improved, and it’s not about statistics. It’s about consistency and playing good football. We’ve got a whole bunch of seniors who will be playing their last game on Saturday, and I think about them when I think about how much this game means.”
Desmond Scott, the Durham native who is the Blue Devils’ top running back, said regardless of the Blue Devils’ record it isn’t hard to get ready for this one.
“It’s Carolina, you know?” Scott said. “If you wake up and have 50 percent, you’re going to be 70 percent. If you have 80, you’re going to get to 100 percent. That’s where we are right now. We have guys banged up, but they’ll be ready to go on Saturday.
“They’re playing us, and just like we wake up to play them with a little more “umph” about ourselves I’m sure they’re going to have that too. So we’ve got to come out with our blinders on, focused and ready to play. I’ve been around rivalries all my life, starting in high school when we had Hillside-Southern. And I know about bragging rights and the importance of having them for a whole year. We’re playing for that bell and we’re trying to leave that bell here at Duke on Saturday.”
Duke’s sophomore quarterback Sean Renfree has taken only one snap against the Tar Heels, that in last season’s 19-6 loss at Kenan Stadium.
“Going into the end of the season guys just want to finish strong and get a win against Carolina,” Renfree said. “Guys who haven’t won against them want to go out and cap off a great season for the seniors. And it’s going to give (the rest of) us confidence going into the off season. We certainly had a lot of potential and showed that throughout the season, but I’m not one to go back and say ‘coulda shoulda woulda.’
“It’s a big rivalry game. This will be my first year playing in it and starting. There are a lot of emotions that go into that game. Obviously it’s a fierce rivalry. They’ve got talent all across the board, even though some of their players are suspended. They’re very, very talented — big up front, fast in the secondary, well coached. It’s a big challenge for us this week.”