CHAPEL HILL – UNC sophomore tailback Jordon Brown registered the first 100-yard rushing game of his career last Saturday at Old Dominion, gaining 125 yards on 17 attempts.
This weekend, Brown and the Tar Heels, who amassed 254 yards on the ground versus the Monarchs, must deal with Duke and the No. 1 rated rushing defense in the nation. The Blue Devils haven’t exactly beaten a who’s who of college football yet, though Northwestern is a quality opponent and Baylor was a terrific program until about 18 months ago, but their numbers are outstanding regardless of the competition.
So Brown’s first time passing the century mark came at a pretty good time. Fueled with a positive vibe will help in game prep this week.
“It makes me feel more ready for the challenges ahead,” he said after Tuesday’s practice. “We know going in any game is not going to be easy to get a win, but we’ve got to step up our game this week.”
Duke is No. 7 nationally in total defense, allowing 223 yards per game. It’s No. 1 against the run, giving up 47.7 yards per contest, but it’s not like teams are simply choosing to pass the ball against the Blue Devils, as they are No. 36 in passing hard allowed at 175.3 per contest.
Furthermore, Duke is No. 2 nationally stopping teams from converting on third downs, holding them to 11.8 percent, and is No. 1 defending fourth downs. The Devils have also allowed just 32 first downs in three games.
UNC must not only face a defensive unit beaming with confidence, but also without all of its parts, and some of the ones the Tar Heels will have up front will be among the walking wounded that decorate their roster.
“Well, injuries are just part of the game,” Brown said. “We’ve got a system where everybody prepares like they’re the starter and we just have to step next man up.”
Yet, this is Duke. It’s the first meeting ever in September between the programs and is the first time Duke’s ACC opener has been against the Tar Heels. Yet, for UNC it’s the next game, albeit a big game.
“We know it’s a big game, but we’re treating it as any other game,” Brown said. “We have to prepare like it’s any other opponent.”
UNC is also feeling pretty good about itself after registering a 53-23 win at ODU in a game that was 39-7 at the half before the Heels coasted after the intermission. And Brown, the talented former 4-star prospect from Durham, the performance in Virginia was big personally.
“It gave me a confidence boost as my first 100-yard game, and first touchdown of the season,” he said.
Now, Brown and the Tar Heels will try to turn that good vibe into a win over a soaring rival.