The University of North Carolina today accepted an invitation to face West Virginia University in the 2008 Meineke Car Care Bowl to be played on Saturday, Dec. 27, at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
The 1 pm game will be televised on ESPN .
The delay in inviting 8-4 North Carolina was due to the Champs Sports Bowl in Orlando, Fla., being next in line to pick from the Atlantic Coast Conference after the Gator Bowl. The Champs Sports Bowl selected Florida State earlier today.
West Virginia and North Carolina share two common opponents: Rutgers and Connecticut. UNC routed Rutgers 44-12 on Sept. 11 and defeated UConn 38-12 on Oct. 4, while West Virginia downed Rutgers 24-17 on Oct. 4 and defeated Connecticut 35-13 on Nov. 1.
The night I watched them play Rutgers I thought they were world beaters,said West Virginia coach Bill Stewart.They have speed and are a very, very talented football team. They caused a lot of turnovers that night.
At the beginning of November, the Tar Heels were 7-2 and near the top of the ACC Coastal Division standings after back-to-back victories over No. 23 Boston College and No. 22 Georgia Tech.
The Georgia Tech performance was perhaps North Carolinas best game of the year. The Tar Heels nearly blanked the Yellow Jackets, 28-7.
Then North Carolina lost back-to-back games against Maryland and North Carolina Statethe 31-point N.C. State loss being the worst suffered by the Tar Heels to the Wolfpack in 19 years.
UNC committed six turnovers in that game including a pair of interceptions thrown by backup quarterback Cameron Sexton, who leads the Tar Heels in passing with 1,261 yards and nine touchdowns.
Sophomore T.J. Yates won the starting job at the beginning of the year and quarterbacked North Carolina to a pair of victories over McNeese State and Rutgers to start the season before suffering a broken ankle in the Virginia Tech loss on Sept 20.
Yates started the season finale against Duke and led the Tar Heels to a 28-20 victory on Nov. 29. He completed 15 of 19 passes for 190 yards and three touchdownsone of those going to all-ACC wide receiver Hakeem Nicks.
Nicks is a big, physical target at 6-feet-1-inches and 210 pounds who became the first pass catcher in school history to exceed the 1,000-yard barrier in receiving. The only three-year performer in ACC history with more career receiving yards than Nicks is former Georgia Tech first-rounder Calvin Johnson, who West Virginia fans remember well after his performance against WVU in the 2007 Toyota Gator Bowl.
Nicks shows 60 catches for 1,005 yards and nine touchdowns in 12 games this season. Brooks Foster also has outstanding size (6-3, 210) and shows 30 catches for 334 yards and a pair of scores.
Shaun Draughn is North Carolinas leading rusher with 801 yards and three touchdowns on 181 carries, but the Tar Heels prefer to use Ryan Houston in the red zone. Houston leads the team with eight rushing touchdownsall eight coming from five yards or less.
When North Carolina wins the turnover battle it usually wins the football game. This year the Tar Heelsturnover margin is plus-16 in their eight victories and minus-12 in their four losses.
Defensively, North Carolina has returned four interceptions for touchdowns this year and leads the ACC with six non-offensive scores (punt return and a blocked punt).
Safety Trimane Goddard joined Nicks on the all-ACC team after picking off a team-best seven passes to go with five pass breakups and 48 tackles. The North Carolina defense has intercepted 19 passes this year.
A trio of linebackers is listed among North Carolinas top four tacklers. Quan Sturdivant shows 111 total stops, 5tackles for losses and a pair of sacks. Mark Paschal, a second-team all-ACC pick, has 103 tackles and 6tackles for losses.
And Bruce Carter shows 61 stops, nine tackles for losses and a team-best three sacks.
Were facing a very formidable, tough, top-notch opponent,said Stewart.I dont know what were going to do with this bunch.
Prior to the Duke game, North Carolinas schedule was rated the 10th-most difficult in the nation, according to the Sagarin Rankings.
North Carolina under second-year coach Butch Davis has exceeded seven wins in a season for just the third time since 1998. The Tar Heels won 21 games during a two-year span in 1996-97 under Mack Brown, including a 10-win season in 1996 that counted a 20-13 victory over West Virginia in the 1997 Gator Bowl.
That is the only meeting between the two schools.
Stewart served two stints on Dick Crums North Carolina staff as a graduate assistant coach in 1979 and then later as an offensive line coach from 1985-87.
We beat Michigan in the Gator Bowl in 1979 and had a heck of a year. Then I came back to North Carolina in 1985 as the offensive line coach for Coach Crum. I spent a total of four years there,Stewart said.Maybe some people might call North Carolina a basketball school but all I know is down there on Tobacco Road they play some pretty good football. Dont think they dont have great football playerswow.
West Virginia offensive coordinator Jeff Mullen is also familiar with the Tar Heels having coached seven seasons at Wake Forest before coming to WVU in 2008.
I dont know how much of a factor that will be because North Carolina is a much different team,Stewart said.
West Virginia is making its second appearance in the Charlotte bowl game. In the inaugural Meineke Car Care Bowlthen called the Continental Tire BowlWest Virginia lost 48-22 to Virginia before a crowd of 73,535.
It was the second-largest crowd to ever attend an inaugural bowl game and was the largest attended bowl game that year outside of the four BCS bowl games.
The game in nearby Charlotte is less than a 150-mile drive for UNC supporters in Chapel Hill. Stewart believes a large contingent of West Virginia fans will also make the drive down from West Virginia.
Im sure the Mountaineer faithful will be there in full force,Stewart said.Im very much certain that thats going to happen.
It is West Virginia’s school-record seventh consecutive bowl appearance and 28th overall in school history. The Mountaineers have won their last three bowl games: Sugar, Gator and Fiesta bowls.
Mountaineer fans interested in sitting in the West Virginia section of the stadium can purchase their tickets through the Mountaineer Ticket Office by logging onto WVUGAME .com, or by calling the Mountaineer Ticket Office toll-free at 1-800-WVU GAME .