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The Daily Tar Heel

Defensive Line Rips Up Duke's Running Game

Tarence Williams, he wasn't.

And unfortunately for Duke, tailback Chris Douglas wasn't even himself during Saturday's loss to North Carolina.

Entering this weekend, Douglas averaged 84.0 rushing yards per game, fifth in the ACC.

On Saturday, he faced a UNC run defense that had been suspect in the past few weeks. Georgia Tech, behind a

198-yard performance from Burns, dominated the Tar Heels for 237 rushing yards Nov. 1 in Atlanta. Last week, Wake Forest, led by Williams, punishing UNC for 212 yards on the ground.

While all the factors were in place for Douglas to have a big day against the Tar Heels, he managed only 41 yards on 20 carries. As a team, Duke, averaging 122.4 rushing yards per game, was held to 59.

"We thought we could run the ball," Duke quarterback D. Bryant said. "We watched the game against Wake. They just kept running it and running it and eventually ran the defensive line down. We wanted to come out and try to do the same thing, but unfortunately we couldn't do it."

Duke coach Carl Franks attributed the weak ground game to UNC's line.

"What they were doing, they were just ripping us up front," Franks said. "That's the best way I can describe it."

While the UNC defense did not do an exceptional job penetrating the backfield, recording only five tackles for loss, it dominated the line of scrimmage. Douglas, who was unavailable for comment, was stopped six times for no gain.

Not only did Duke struggle on the ground, but its passing game was also out of sync. The Blue Devils, who averaged 228.8 yards in the air per game, mustered only 172 net passing yards.

"We still had enough chances and enough plays," Franks said. "But we weren't able to generate enough of a running game to give us a better chance of throwing the ball."

Duke wide receiver Ben Erdeljac said that an improved rushing game would have made life in the air easier.

"With (Julius) Peppers and (Ryan) Sims on their defensive line, we know that we have to run the ball well to keep pressure off our quarterback and open up some holes in the secondary," Erdeljac said.

Said Bryant: "They stacked up front, and once you stack up front, we have to pass. We couldn't hit receivers. We couldn't complete balls. And if you can't do that, you can't get a 'W.'"

Bryant was held to 146 yards passing, well below his average of 225 yards per game. Forty-nine of those yards came on a pass play to Erdeljac in the first quarter.

Despite their disagreements regarding who was to blame for Duke's offensive woes, the team seemed to hold a common sentiment, one best summed up by Erdeljac: "It's not what we wanted."

While it was an abnormal day for Duke's offense, in the opposing locker room, UNC coach John Bunting seemed relieved that his defense, ranked second in the ACC, returned to form.

"Defensively, it was good to come back and play a solid game," Bunting said. "I believe we played pretty good defense, had good pressure, and played good run defense, which was important to me."

The Sports Editor can be reached at sports@unc.edu.

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