CHAPEL HILL — Given the stakes and passion of the basketball rivalry between Duke and North Carolina, it's almost unfair to expect the same from football.
For once, the less anticipated engagement between the rivals measured up. North Carolina kept the Victory Bell for the eighth straight time, and 21st time in the past 22 years, but there was enough drama along the way in the Tar Heels' 37-21 win to meet, if not exceed, basketball standards.
Personal fouls, injuries, big plays, turnovers, one-handed grabs, coaches stomping out to midfield, shattered records and at least one unexpected star turn - it was pretty much everything you'd expect from hoops, other than the elite level of play.
"It just comes with playing Duke," North Carolina defensive lineman Quinton Coples said. "You know things are going to happen."
Five years later and in a different sport, North Carolina linebacker Zach Brown delivered some measure of delayed retribution for Gerald Henderson's elbow to the nose of Tyler Hansbrough, administering a fearsome helmet-to-helmet hit to Duke quarterback Sean Renfree.
The hit, moments after the quarterback released a 45-yard touchdown pass, left Renfree sprawled on the field for a few minutes and eventually knocked him out of the game with numbness and swelling in his throwing hand.
If the heat of the basketball rivalry has often produced a career performance from a role player, the Tar Heels got one Saturday from kicker Thomas Moore. A weak 2-for-7 coming into the game, Moore was 3-for-3, including a career-long 46-yarder.
As for records, Giovani Bernard, Dwight Jones, Bryn Renner, Donovan Varner and Matt Daniels combined to break a bunch -- single-season, freshman, career, personal, school, conference, whatever, you name it.
The biggest difference, of course, was that although both basketball teams are usually locks to make the postseason, only North Carolina at 7-5 could say that Saturday. Representatives from the Military Bowl and Independence Bowl were in the press box.
In addition to wondering where the Tar Heels are headed, it's also fair to wonder whether North Carolina should be going to a bowl at all. Miami, another ACC school under investigation by the NCAA, has chosen to stay home. North Carolina didn't include a voluntary bowl ban among its self-sanctions in September, and the NCAA has yet to rule on the nine major violations committed under the Butch Davis regime.
"We're just happy to be able to go to a bowl after all the adversity we went through," Jones said. "I wouldn't care if it was overseas."
Duke is staying home, but the Blue Devils have known that for weeks. Although a win would have sent their seniors off on the right foot, including such program stalwarts as Daniels, Varner and Charlie Hatcher, they do return 18 starters next season.
"I just have a bad taste in my mouth," Varner said. "I hate seeing Carolina ring that bell. I hope the guys get it next year, and I'll be here to watch."
Given the uncertainty surrounding North Carolina's football program, next year's edition of this rivalry may be played, as is often the case in basketball, on more even terms. For now, the bell stays the same shade of blue, and basketball season is already here.