Due to their location relative to it and the fact that they’ve typically had a middling record if they get bowl eligible at all, North Carolina have spent a lot of bowl seasons in Charlotte over the past couple decades.
Since the game now known as the Duke’s Mayo Bowl came into existence in 2002, the Tar Heels have been invited to it five times as of this year. This year’s game takes them even further into the lead of all-time appearances in the game, now two clear of the trio of NC State, Virginia, and Wake Forest, who’ve played in it three times.
Ahead of the Tar Heels taking on South Carolina, let’s look back at UNC’s four previous appearances in the Duke’s Mayo/(insert all other old names) Bowl.
December 30, 2004: Boston College 37, UNC 24
The Heels first appeared in the game in the third ever edition in 2004, when it was known as the Continental Tire Bowl. Facing a future conference mate and a future NC State coach in Tom O’Brien, John Bunting’s 6-5 Carolina team hung with a ranked BC for three quarters.
However, the Eagles pulled away in the fourth, in part inspired after an injury to their starting quarterback Paul Peterson. BC began to pull away with a fake field goal touchdown after their kicker scored via a handoff from some guy named Matt Ryan.
UNC quarterback Darian Durant didn’t go down without a fight, throwing for 259 yards and three touchdowns.
December 27, 2008: West Virginia 31, North Carolina 30
Four years later, the game was now knows as the Meineke Car Care Bowl, while UNC also looked different under Butch Davis. Things in Chapel Hill were seemingly on the rise, and the game represented a chance to beat a time that started the year ranked in the top ten and had contended for a national title the year before.
UNC, led by 217 receiving yards from Hakeem Nicks, went back and forth with the Mountaineers for much of the game, taking a lead into halftime and the fourth quarter. However, a great performance from WVU quarterback Pat White and two fourth quarter turnovers prevented the Heels from coming away with the win.
December 26, 2009: Pitt 19, North Carolina 17
The very next year, UNC were back in Charlotte, this time facing the other half of the “Backyard Brawl” rivalry.
Whereas the previous year featured over 800 total yards combined, this one was a more defensive battle. UNC took a 17-16 lead in the third, but in the fourth Pitt put together a 17-play, eight minute drive that eventually ended in a field goal. The Heels had less than a minute after that and couldn’t answer, losing in the same bowl game by less than a score for a second-straight year.
December 28, 2013: North Carolina 39, Cincinnati 17
Oh hey, a win! Under second-year coach Larry Fedora, UNC looked like they were going to miss a bowl all together after starting the season 1-5. However a second half of the season rally, led in part by Ryan Switzer’s punt return touchdown efforts, got the Heels all the way back to 6-6 and into a bowl.
In the now Belk Bowl against Cincinnati, Switzer was at it again, returning yet another punt for a touchdown. It was his fifth of the season, which tied the NCAA record. The Heels generally controlled the game from start to finish, jumping out a 16-0 first quarter lead and never looking back from there.
If this year’s game happens, let’s hope the Duke’s Mayo Bowl is more Belk than Continental Tire.