Duke wins third straight over UNC
DURHAM, N.C. — Duke continued its win streak over North Carolina Saturday, knocking off the Tar Heels for the third straight season with a 42-35 victory at Wallace Wade Stadium.
The win also gives Duke its fifth win in its last seven meetings with the Tar Heels.
“I said it was the best feeling the world after last week, but I think this tops it,” Ben Humphreys said of the win.
The teams traded blows for much of the first half, as they entered the locker rooms with the Blue Devils leading 35-28.
Duke and UNC combined for 768 total yards in the half, with neither team showing any signs of a productive defensive effort to come.
North Carolina opened the scoring behind a dominant ground attack, that saw Michael Carter simply have his way, particularly on the edges. By the end of the first half, Carter had posted 122 yards on just 11 carries.
The Blue Devils’ defense was outmatched in every sense. Duke defenders were taking terrible angles to the ball carrier. When they were in the right spot, they missed tackles. It was, perhaps one of the worst displays of defense we’ve seen from Duke all season long.
The same could probably be said for the Tar Heels, however.
After UNC marched 75 yards on seven plays in to the end zone to open the game’s scoring, Duke responded with it’s on nearly unstoppable weapon: the passing game.
Daniel Jones and Duke responded with 75 yards on five plays, highlighted by a 52-yard touchdown pass to Chris Taylor.
The back and forth would continue, as neither team was ready to budge and stop putting the pressure on. North Carolina continued relying on its ground attack, while Duke focused on airing it out.
Duke contributed 398 yards to that 768 total, with 233 of those coming through the air. In the first half alone, Jones had completed 15-of-26 passes for 233 yards and three scores. But just as the half was coming to a close, Jones began doing damage with his legs again, rushing for a 61-yard touchdown to close the first half scoring.
At the time, the rush was Jones’ longest of his career. It also gave him 120 yards on the ground in the first half.
“Daniel Jones played as well as a quarterback can play,” head coach David Cutcliffe said. “I don’t know how many total yards he would have ended up with had we caught everything he threw, but what a tremendous effort.”
Heading into the break there was no reason to believe anything was going to change in the second half.
It did, though.
Cutclife had his defense ready in the second half. So much so, it took UNC, who had totaled 16 first downs in the first half, all the way to about the 10 minute mark of the fourth quarter before it moved the sticks for the first time in the second half.
Duke’s defense came ready to play. The Blue Devils allowed just 23 yards of total offense in the third quarter. That effort continued through most of the fourth quarter. In fact, the Blue Devils appeared to be on track to hold UNC out of the end zone for the entire second half.
“We turned the ball over twice in the second half, they didn’t get a point out of it,” Cutcliffe noted. “Huge. We had two fumbles and a blocked field goal in the third quarter, and I’m sitting there thinking as well as we’ve played, that’s like dropping foul balls. Ya’ll know what happens after you drop foul balls, right? They hit home runs.
“The reason we were able to fight that off is the fight of our entire team. It was no one part, offense, defense or kicking that enabled us to win. It was every part that enabled us to win.”
Humphreys attributed his defense’s improved play in the second half to effort, and not scheme.
“We adjusted at halftime. It wasn’t really a scheme thing. It was effort and we needed to do our own jobs. And I think that we did a great job of that in the second half. We came together.”
But UNC certainly did not go down without a fight. The Tar Heels put together a 16 play, 80-yard drive to cut Duke’s lead from 42-28 to just one score. Time was against them, though. Duke took over possession with just 53 seconds remaining.
The Devils kept the Tar Heels alive, though, when they were faced with a fourth and long. Instead of attempting a field goal, or trying a quarterback pooch punt, Cutcliffe had his team go for it. Jones tried connecting with his receiver in the end zone, but the pass was picked off by Myles Dorn.
The interception resulted in a touchback, with UNC taking over at its own 20 yard line.
UNC proceeded to march 41 yards downfield, allowing themselves just one last shot at the end zone. The Tar Heels attempted a Hail Mary with time running out, but the Blue Devils batted the pass down to earn the win.
Duke ultimately allowed 143 yards in the fourth quarter, with 121 of those coming in the final five minutes.
Ultimately Duke outgained UNC 629 to 536. Along the way the Blue Devils converted 13 of 20 third down tries.
Jones finished the game with 361 yards passing, three touchdowns and one interception on 31-of-54 attempts. He also gained 186 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries.