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Friday October 7th

Mitch Trubisky reflects on late interception in UNC football's loss to Duke

North Carolina quarterback Mitch Trubisky is no stranger to last minute drives — bringing the North Carolina football team back from late deficits in victories over Pittsburgh and Florida State earlier in the season. 

On Thursday night against Duke, when UNC’s offense took the field trailing 28-27 with 1:51 remaining, it felt like business as usual for the redshirt junior. 

Trubisky scrambled for a first down on 3rd-and-6, evading pressure as he had all game. This left UNC at its own 18-yard line with 1:11 left and two timeouts remaining — plenty of time for another miracle. 

But, as Trubisky’s last pass of the game sailed through the cold air at Wallace Wade Stadium into the waiting arms of Duke safety Alonzo Saxton II, the magic disappeared along with the Tar Heels’ two-game winning streak over the Blue Devils. 

In his weekly press conference on Monday, Head Coach Larry Fedora said Trubisky’s interception came as a confluence of mistakes. 

“Neither of the two receivers were where they needed to be,” he said. “And Mitch panicked a little bit instead of realizing, ‘Hey, it’s first down — let’s just throw it out of bounds.’ He threw the ball without really seeing what was going on and didn’t need to do that at that time.”

Trubisky’s pass, intended for wide receiver Bug Howard, came off his back foot thanks to pressure from Duke defensive tackle A.J. Wolf, who beat UNC guard Tommy Hatton off the line. Hatton was also called for holding on the play, but the Blue Devils declined the penalty and took possession. 

“I think as an offense we didn’t execute …" Trubisky said. “A couple guys didn’t do their job, and then I didn’t do my job by throwing a pass when I should have just thrown the ball away.”

The interception was Trubisky’s second pick of the night, bringing his season total to four — with the previous two coming in a 34-3 loss to Virginia Tech. 

Trubisky also said the Tar Heels felt the absence of wide receiver Mack Hollins, which allowed Duke to double-cover Ryan Switzer and vary its coverages. 

“Duke did a good job of mixing it up,” Trubisky said. “They’re disciplined enough to do that.”

While Trubisky’s mistake was costly, Fedora said it wasn't the reason UNC lost.

“It’s a play that we don’t want to happen,” Fedora said. “But that’s not the difference in the football game. It just came in that situation. We had many opportunities to win the football game.”

UNC’s defense allowed Duke to convert 10 of its 17 third-down attempts, and safety Donnie Miles knows the defense didn’t do all it could to help. 

“Basically, we didn’t make the plays that needed to be made," he said. “We have some mistakes that need to be cleaned up.”

But Trubisky put the blame on himself and the interception that sealed the game.

sports@dailytarheel.com

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