College Football Notebook: Meineke Bowl Dec. 26

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 17, 2009

Associated Press
The college football notebook …
CHARLOTTE ó The Meineke Bowl will have a holiday feel to it this year.
The game pitting teams from the Atlantic Coast Conference and Big East will be played on Dec. 26 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium. Kickoff will be at 4:30 p.m. and the game will be televised by ESPN.
While it may cause fewer overnight stays at area hotels, bowl officials hope the later start time will prevent a drop-off in attendance by allowing fans to travel to Charlotte earlier in the day. Kickoff was at 1 p.m. last year.
“With Christmas being the day before, we feel that the 4:30 p.m. kickoff is advantageous and will fit right into the schedules of fans attending the game,” bowl director Will Webb said Thursday. “In addition, this will be the first time that we will play during a prime afternoon on the West Coast. Given our television track record with ESPN as our television partner, we anticipate another great rating for the game.”
The holiday and NFL schedule called for the day after Christmas date. The bowl game has traditionally been played on a Saturday. Christmas weekend was open with the Carolina Panthers on the road Dec. 27. The NFL team, which owns Bank of America Stadium, is home the following weekend.
The Meineke Bowl began as the Continental Tire Bowl in 2002 and has produced three sellouts in seven years. A capacity crowd of 73,712 watched West Virginia beat North Carolina on Dec. 27 in one of the season’s best postseason games. It was the fourth-largest crowd for a bowl game in 2008-09 behind the BCS championship, Cotton Bowl and Fiesta Bowl.
DURHAM ó The Blue Devils quadrupled their 2007 win total in ’08, but coach David Cutcliffe was far from satisfied with that. They lost 12 starters from last year’s 4-8 team, and while the numbers are down, the remaining players have a clearer idea how to play Cutcliffe’s way.
“We have less bodies and more football players,” Cutcliffe said. “At this time a year ago, eight players were ready to play defense to some degree of effectiveness in the ACC, and on offense we had seven. We are in double digits in both categories. … Everybody was patting our kids on the back because we had a better year. Well, we didn’t have a better year, because we didn’t win some games we should have.”
CHAPEL HILL ó The top priority for Butch Davis was finding some bodies to complete a receiving corps that lost record-setting junior Hakeem Nicks and seniors Brooks Foster and Brandon Tate. His next concern was finding more players to fill out the rest of the depth chart.
“One of the major issues (remains) trying to get enough depth,” Davis said. “In 2007 (his first season at North Carolina), we were paper-thin. We were one injury away at almost every position. … Last year, we had some depth at some positions, but certainly not all of them.”
RALEIGH ó All eyes were on Russell Wilson after the ACC rookie of the year and all-league quarterback worked his way back from a knee injury and doubled as an infielder on the school’s baseball team.
“We went in with some things that he had to get better at,” coach Tom O’Brien said. “A major concern was that he ran too much last year. That’s not an unnatural reaction, especially from a first-year quarterback. … We didn’t want to discourage him from running, but we didn’t want it to be the first resort all the time.”
WINSTON-SALEM ó Jim Grobe lost three standout linebackers, including possibly the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick in Aaron Curry, but is optimistic the Demon Deacons will find strength in another number ó the nine starters that return on defense.
“This is probably the deepest we’ve been at linebacker since I’ve been here,” Grobe said. “We’re losing a lot, but I like the intensity. I like the depth we’ve got. Probably five or six kids right now are really fighting hard, where they’re in a situation where they get a lot of playing time.
“We don’t have a superstar like Aaron Curry, but I like the mix,” he added.