Tar Heels bound for Belk Bowl

Dec. 08, 2013 @ 10:58 PM

North Carolina’s bowl venue is a familiar destination.

The Tar Heels will face Cincinnati in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 28 at 3:20 p.m., the ACC announced Sunday night.

It will be the fourth trip to the Charlotte-based bowl game in 10 years for the Tar Heels, who lost to Boston College in 2004, West Virginia in 2008 and Pittsburgh in 2009. UNC’s only other bowl appearances during that time were in Nashville in 2010 and in Shreveport, La., in 2011.

It will also be the Tar Heels’ sixth game in the Queen City since 1998, more than all other neutral-site locations combined during that time (five).

“We’ve had a history of great support in the city of Charlotte and certainly our fans will be excited to watch our seniors play one more game,” UNC athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a statement.

The Bearcats also have experience with the Belk Bowl, having beaten Duke 48-34 in the 2012 edition of the game at Bank of America Stadium.

Both UNC (6-6, 4-4 ACC) and Cincinnati (9-3, 6-2 AAC) had long winning streaks late in the season.

After a 1-5 start, the Tar Heels won five straight games before losing their last game to Duke. Since 2006, when teams started playing 12-game schedules, Rutgers in 2008 was the only other BCS-conference team to make a bowl game after losing five of its first six games.

“I’m excited for our team, especially our seniors, who fought through some early season adversity and won five of the last six games to become bowl eligible,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said in a statement. “This is a resilient bunch of guys that kept believing in one another throughout the year and I’m glad they were rewarded with a bowl game.”

In its first year under coach Tommy Tuberville, Cincinnati won six straight games before losing its regular-season finale to Louisville in overtime.

UNC beat Tuberville in a bowl game once before, when the Tar Heels defeated Auburn in the 2001 Peach Bowl.

Fedora’s hurry-up, spread offense will face a challenge in Charlotte. The Bearcats are ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense and the top 15 in scoring defense under coordinator Art Kaufman, who served as linebackers coach under Butch Davis at UNC from 2009-10 and defensive coordinator under Everett Withers in 2011.

Withers and his staff were let go after the 2011 season. Fedora then went 8-4 in his first campaign last year, but the team was ineligible for the postseason due to NCAA sanctions.