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The Daily Tar Heel

Tar Heels' Offense Bedevils Duke

Ronald Curry returned from a two-week absence and passed for 217 yards to help UNC down Duke 52-17.

Before the events of Sept. 11, Saturday's North Carolina football game against Duke was set to be Ronald Curry's last home game as a Tar Heel.

But instead of the end, it was more like a beginning. Curry missed North Carolina's last two games because of an injury and a death in his family. In his return to the football field, Curry did not disappoint, completing 11 of 19 passes for 217 yards to lead the Tar Heels to a

52-17 trouncing of the Blue Devils.

"I think Ronald is a real happy guy to be back and playing ball again, and I was happy to see him do it," said UNC coach John Bunting.

Curry tossed three touchdowns and rushed for a spectacular one that showcased his running ability.

On third down on the Duke 11 in the second quarter, Curry ran out of the shotgun to his left until two Duke defenders seemed poised to stop him. He then cut back right, ran several feet before cutting sharply toward the end zone, spun and fell backward into the end zone.

"(The touchdown run) was one of the most phenomenal runs I've ever seen," Bunting said. "I went right over to Darian (Durant) and said, 'Don't you ever try to do that.' There's only one guy that can do that, and it's Ronald Curry."

The rushing touchdown was one of three and marked the slow but steady emergence of UNC's running game.

By halftime, the Tar Heels (6-5, 5-3 in the ACC) had 78 rushing yards and Curry's rushing TD, and by the end of the game, UNC had two more touchdowns on the ground and 219 net rushing yards.

"We knew that we had to get our running game back on track because, with just one more game in the season and a possible bowl game, we have to have a rushing attack to have a balanced offense," said freshman tailback Jacque Lewis, who scored his first touchdown of his career in the third quarter on an 28-yard run.

Lewis actually had the chance to score one snap earlier -- he had broken free of the Blue Devil secondary and ran 40 yards -- but then tripped over his own feet and fell at the Duke 28.

Lewis' touchdown capped a third quarter where the Tar Heel offense buckled down and put the game out of the Blue Devils' reach. A 1-yard run by Alex Wade with 10:14 left in the third brought Duke within seven.

"We got the ball with good field position, took it down and scored and it's a seven-point game," said Duke coach Carl Franks. "At that point, we forgot how to tackle, about how to block. We weren't able to put two halves together, and they made a lot of great plays, a lot of great athletic plays on offense."

Last week, North Carolina built a 24-point halftime lead on Wake Forest, only to allow 32 points in the second half and lost the game in the contest's waning minutes.

But UNC didn't have to worry about Duke (0-10, 0-7) tying up the game.

Curry connected with Sam Aiken for an 18-yard touchdown and Kory Bailey for 30-yard TD before Lewis brought the score to 45-17.

Willie Parker added another touchdown in the fourth, and UNC locked up its fifth win in the conference.

After the Tar Heels were done with the Blue Devils, their eyes turned to the Maryland-N.C. State game being played in Raleigh. The Terps won, securing the ACC Championship, and knocking off one of the Tar Heels' competitors for a Peach Bowl bid.

Now, the Tar Heels need Georgia Tech to fall to Florida State to sew up third place in the conference and the Peach Bowl. But first, the Tar Heels have beat Southern Methodist on Dec. 1 to win enough games to be bowl eligible.

"We started off slow, picked it up, but then we had two games when we didn't have everything together," said Curry of the season. "Hopefully, everybody's back on the same page. Our main goal is to beat SMU. We know what's at stake, but we can't focus on if we win, what's going to happen."

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