Sep 25, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Gunnar Holmberg (12) scores a touchdown during the 1st half of the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

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Duke rides winning streak into matchup at North Carolina

Going into October, Duke unexpectedly appears to be on the rise, while highly touted North Carolina is left trying to figure things out.

The teams meet Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C., with Duke making the short trek for its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

“This is not who we want to be or who we are,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “We’ve got to learn from it.”

North Carolina (2-2, 1-2 ACC) has lost both of its ACC games away from Chapel Hill, tumbling out of the national rankings following a 45-22 setback to Georgia Tech last Saturday. This wasn’t the prescribed opening month for a team that began the season in the Top 10.

“A lot of things went wrong,” North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell said. “There’s still a lot of football left to be played, so we just have to keep our head up, keep working.”

Duke (3-1) built a three-game winning streak with home triumphs, holding the rare distinction early in the season of a team with two non-league victories against opponents from Power 5 conferences (Northwestern and Kansas).

While that was nice, sterner tests await the Blue Devils, who have already eclipsed their 2020 win total of two.

“It’s getting ready to get real now,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Here we go with ACC play. We have to get better fast.”

So do the Tar Heels, who kick off three straight home games with their matchup against Duke.

“I think we’ll respond well,” Howell said. “No one expected this out of us four games into the season.”

Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg was part of five touchdown plays last Saturday against Kansas. He tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns.

“I just think keeping our composure and being able to respond is something really special about this team,” Holmberg said.

Ownership of the Victory Bell is at stake each year when these teams meet. This will be the 108th meeting overall.

North Carolina has gone 2-0 against Duke since Brown returned to coach the Tar Heels, winning in thrilling fashion in 2019 with a goal-line interception with 14 seconds left and then recording a 56-24 road victory last year. Before that, Duke had a three-game winning streak in the series.

Overall, North Carolina has 10 straight victories in the series with Brown on the sideline. The veteran coach holds a 10-2 mark against the Blue Devils.

–Field Level Media

Field Level Media
Sport Writer & Editor
FLM has a North American focus while tying into regional and hyper-local resources – providing the ability to distribute compelling content through the writing of professional journalists. As the U.S. sports content provider to dozens of digital and print media publishers through strategic partnerships with the likes of Reuters and Nielsen Sports, FLM covers the nuts and bolts with a breaking news desk and game event coverage.

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