- File photo by Chris Baird
- Duke’s Conner Vernon makes a catch in the opener against Florida International.
It’s party time in Durham tonight.
New cross-town rivals Duke and N.C. Central will meet for just the second time on the football field at 7 p.m. in the Bull City Gridiron Classic.
And because they signed a contract to extend the series earlier this week, it’s the first of many more to come. NCCU will visit Wallace Wade Stadium for both teams’ season opener next year, and future meetings are scheduled for 2015, 2016 and 2017.
It’s one of three games involving Triangle Division I teams tonight. And typically, all four Triangle teams are 1-1 through their first two games of the season.
N.C. State will return home to Carter-Finley Stadium for the first time this season, taking on South Alabama (1-1) — which is in its final season as an FCS opponent – at 6 p.m.
Meanwhile UNC will try to bounce back from its road loss to Wake Forest, traveling to No. 19 Louisville (2-0) for a 3:30 contest to be shown on ABC and ESPN2.
Duke vs. N.C. Central
Duke, which won the first meeting with the Eagles 49-14 in 2009, is listed as a 50-point favorite on the Dunkel Index. Fans who arrive early enough will get to see the start of the schools’ dual cross-country meet on the track, with the men’s race scheduled to start at 6:45 and the women’s at 6:47.
Both teams have a game-breaking receiver who played at Hillside High. Former running back Desmond Scott (13 catches, 82 yards) is a Blue Devil senior while all-purpose runner Geo Irvine (eight catches, 132 yards with two TDs plus a punt-return TD) is an Eagle senior.
The Blue Devils are coming off a 50-13 loss at No. 25 Stanford. Sean Renfree has completed 49 of 70 passes for 490 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, while Conner Vernon has caught 16 for 229 and a score.
“I’m excited about this week,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “I’m mostly excited about it because I love our community; I truly do. I’m proud of Durham. I take a lot of pride in trying to know a lot of the folks in Durham and a lot of the areas in Durham. I’ve done that since we’ve been here, and I’m very appreciative of this area. It’s a great place to live and raise children. I know it’s the Bull City Classic. I like to think of this as the ‘Bull City Celebration’ because we’re actually able to bring so many people together in this venue and I hope it’s 35,000-plus. The weather has called for being good. It was not good, if you remember, in 2009 and we still had a very good crowd. There will be a lot of good football played, and (with) all of the festivities surrounding the ballgame we certainly want to encourage people to come early.
“I’ve watched North Carolina Central improve from Game One to Game Two. Neither one of us had the results we wanted in Game Two, but I watched them get better. And I watched them get better as that game went on. I know we will see a well-prepared, hungry football team. We’re on a mission for North Carolina Central to come against a well-prepared, hungry football team, but that’s got to be a work in progress.”
NCCU is coming off a 34-14 loss at Elon. Matt Goggans has completed 16 of 38 for 233 yards with two TDs and an interception, while Arthur Goforth has carried 21 times for 140 yards and a TD.
“It has to be about us and the football game,” NCCU coach Henry Frazier said. “We have homecomings and classic games where everyone is excited and doing those other things, but it’s all about the game for us and we have to keep everything in its proper perspective.
“That’s what you talk to the team about. You have the opportunity to enjoy the festivities after the game, but leading up to the game we’ve just got to be disciplined.”
N.C. State vs. South Alabama
State topped visiting South Alabama 35-13 last season in the teams’ first meeting. It was the first loss in the Jaguars’ history, as the program was only in its second year.
State, a 31 ½-point favorite, is coming off a 10-7 win at Connecticut while USA beat visiting Nicholls State 9-3 last week.
Wolfpack QB Mike Glennon has completed 42 of 76 passes for 492 yards and two TDs with four interceptions, while Mustafa Greene has carried 28 times for 101 yards.
USA quarterback C.J. Bennett has completed 26 of 44 for 293 yards with two TDs and an interception, while Demetre Baker has carried 32 times for 138 yards and a TD.
“We’re really excited about being home for the first time this season,” Wolfpack coach Tom O’Brien said. “It seems like it’s been a long time since we’ve played here at Carter-Finley. We’re concerned about playing South Alabama. Coach (Joey) Jones has done a great job; the roster is full of junior college and Division I transfers. They’re playing a safety who played at Alabama, a linebacker who played at Virginia Tech, and a tailback played at Georgia. So they have some really good people playing on both sides of the football. They’ll be a big challenge for us.”
UNC at Louisville
UNC beat Louisville 14-7 in Chapel Hill last season, while the series is tied with three wins apiece. Louisville is a three-point favorite.
The Tar Heels are coming off a 28-27 heartbreaker with the Deacons, while Louisville — which has yet to play on the road — blasted Missouri State 35-7 last week.
Gio Bernard, who caught one TD pass, rushed for another and returned a punt for another in the season opener against Elon but missed the Wake game with a knee injury, will sit out this one as well. Bryn Renner has completed 37 of 60 passes for 507 yards and four TDs with two interceptions for UNC.
Teddy Bridgewater has completed a ridiculous 49 of 60 passes for 576 yards and two TDs without an interception for the Cardinals. Seniorise Perry has rushed 35 times for 180 yards and two TDs.
“We’re looking forward to this opportunity of going on the road and having the opportunity to play a ranked opponent,” UNC coach Larry Fedora said. “(Coach) Charlie (Strong) has done a great job up there with his football team in a short period of time. They’ve recruited some excellent talent, and we’re really looking forward to see how we measure up.
“I think (Bridgewater) is pretty special. I think Charlie has got to be very happy about the way that young man has performed at this point. I think he’s got to be excited about the future there at Louisville because the kid looks like he can beat you with his legs or he can beat you with his arm. Those kind of quarterbacks are by far the toughest to try to defend.”