After a 14-0 start, it appeared No. 17 North Carolina was primed to run away with its rivalry matchup against Duke. But the Blue Devils didn’t lie down, using a resurgent defense and clock-chewing ground game to stymie UNC’s powerful offense in a 28-27 win in Durham.
The Tar Heels started the game on fire. Redshirt junior quarterback Mitch Trubisky began the game 12-for-15 for 200 yards with all three of his incompletions coming on drops. UNC led 14-0 after the first quarter.
But Duke’s offense led by redshirt first-year Daniel Jones used a combination of short passes and runs to keep the defense off balance. Three rushing touchdowns, two by Jones, helped the Blue Devils knot the game at 21 after a half of action.
Duke continued its stellar play calling in the second half, keeping UNC’s offense off the field. The Tar Heels, meanwhile, could not rediscover the rhythm they had in the first half. They settled for field goals twice, while Duke scored a touchdown to take the lead on a pass from Jones to tight end Davis Koppenhaver. A Trubisky interception — his second of the half — on UNC’s final drive ended any hopes of a win.
Who stood out?
For a quarter, Trubisky was phenomenal. He sliced and diced the Duke defenders to the tune of 200 yards and three touchdowns on 12-for-15 passing. But Duke’s defense stiffened and Trubisky could not solve it. He was off repeatedly on passes in the second half and had his first two interceptions since the loss to Virginia Tech in Hurricane Matthew.
Running back Elijah Hood also excelled for UNC, though on limited touches. He was the team’s leading receiver with five catches for 58 yards, as well as the leading rusher with 13 carries for 75 yards.
When was it decided?
The game officially fell out of UNC’s grasp when Trubisky overthrew a pass on first down deep in UNC territory on the Tar Heels' final drive. But before that, Duke put together a long drive from its own 1-yard line all the way to the UNC 29 that chewed almost seven minutes off the clock. It was held together by multiple long runs from Jones and a pair of third-down catches from wide receiver T.J. Rahming. UNC’s defense needed a stop, but ultimately got one too late.
Why does it matter?
Barring a Virginia Tech collapse, this loss dashes any hopes for UNC to repeat as ACC Coastal Division champions. The upset will also likely have a major effect on the caliber of bowl UNC plays in, essentially knocking the Tar Heels' chances of ending the year as a top-10 team.
Where do they play next?
The Tar Heels will play The Citadel at home in Kenan Stadium at 3:30 pm. on Saturday, Nov. 19.
To get the day's news and headlines in your inbox each morning, sign up for our email newsletters.