When North Carolina and Cal take the field on Chapel Hill next Saturday, it will be the first ever meeting between the two teams. Besides that, it will be the first time the Bears take the field under their new coach Justin Wilcox.
The game will mark the first time UNC has faced the Bears, but also the first time they face Wilcox as a head coach. It is not, however, they’ve faced Wilcox in general.
Before ending up as defensive coordinator at Wisconsin, he had stops as DC at four others schools. The first was at Boise State, where he helped the Broncos to a 49-4 record across his four seasons on the staff. That led him to get the defensive coordinator job at Tennessee, where the Tar Heels had a run in with the Volunteers in a very memorable game.
The 2010 Tennessee team had a fairly solid defense when they met up with UNC in the 2010 Music City Bowl. The wildness of Carolina’s win in that game wasn’t totally due to Tennessee’s defense, but they certainly didn’t help things.
UNC did not have much time left when they got the ball down three in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels started at their own 20 with just 26 seconds left. A 28-yard completion and a 15-yard personal foul penalty allowed Carolina to get into Volunteer territory in just one play. UNC still needed some total chaos to get that game into overtime, but they got some help along the way.
That Tennessee team was average in terms of total yard numbers that season. He has put together some good defenses since then, though. It will be quite hard to top the 2010 Music City Bowl in terms of weirdness, but UNC and Cal have certainly put together some chaotic games over recent years.
Wilcox is not the only coach on staff that has faced a UNC team before. The Bears’ new defensive coordinator is Tim DeRuyter, the former Fresno State coach.
DeRuyter has had a long coaching career, starting as an assistant at Air Force. His first coordinator gig came as DC at Ohio University in 1995. Early on in his first season there, the Bobcats took a trip to Chapel Hill to play the 1-2 Tar Heels. UNC proceeded to put up over 600 yards and score 63 points. Octavus Barnes went for 211 receiving yards and three touchdowns, both numbers near the top in the school record book.
DeRuyter ended up having good enough of a career to get a head coaching gig, but his first year as a coordinator did see his defense get absolutely pasted by a 7-5 Carolina team.
One other coach on Cal’s staff has a experience facing UNC as a coordinator. Jerry Azzinaro is the defensive line coach in Berkley, but he spent three seasons as defensive coordinator at Duke.
From 2004 to 2006, Azzinaro was DC under Ted Roof. Duke’s win total dropped all three years. Weirdly, the total yards his defenses gave up dropped from year to year, but then the points they gave up also rose from the first year. Against UNC, the margin of victory dropped every year the teams met, but in that final game the Tar Heels went for nearly 500 yards. Still only won by one point, but that’s another story.
After going 0-12 in 2006, Azzinaro was out along side Roof at Duke. He went on to be defensive line coach for Chip Kelly at Oregon, then at both of Kelly’s NFL stops as well. He hasn’t had another stint as DC anywhere, however.
None of these games really have anything to do with what will happen in 2017. Only one happened within the last 10 years, and even with that one, no one is still around from it. However, UNC has had some success in the past against some members of Cal’s coaching staff, and that’s good.