The North Carolina football team (5-2, 5-2 ACC) held onto the Victory Bell by defeating Duke (2-6, 1-6 ACC) in a 56-24 blowout on Friday afternoon behind four touchdowns from Javonte Williams and an overwhelming offense in the first quarter.
North Carolina struck first after receiving the kickoff, taking just 2:21 to find its way to the back of Duke's end zone. Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell led the Tar Heels down the field after a kickoff penalty on Duke put UNC at the 50-yard line to start the drive. Passes to receivers Dazz Newsome and Dyami Brown put North Carolina in the red zone, before Howell tossed a short pass to running back Javonte Williams for the touchdown.
After forcing a 3-and-out that included a big sack from Jeremiah Gemmel, the Tar Heels didn't give the Blue Devils defense a chance to breathe, scoring again in just three plays. A 51-yard bomb from Howell to receiver Emery Simmons put North Carolina right up against the Duke end zone, and Howell walked the ball in the next play to go up 14-0.
Duke's offensive woes continued on its next drive, picking up only one first down before being forced to punt. The Tar Heels kept their foot on the gas, working their way back down the field behind patient throws from Howell and a big 27-yard run from senior running back Michael Carter. Williams would finish the drive with his second touchdown of the day on a 4-yard run.
Struggling for anything, Duke did manage to generate some offense with running back Mataeo Durant, but Blue Devil quarterback Chase Brice was picked off by Ladaeson Hollins, who returned the pass for 43 yards. All it took was a pass to Carter in the flat for UNC's fourth touchdown of the day.
The Blue Devils managed to find their footing for a drive after a would-be sack by senior linebacker Tomon Fox was waived off when a penalty was called on his brother Tomari, giving Duke a first down. A 22-yard run by Eli Pancol put points on the board for Duke for the first time, cutting the lead to 28-7.
UNC would turn around and score yet again, moving down the field with nine plays before Williams ran 32 yards on an outside run for his third touchdown to put UNC up 35-7. After yet another stalled Duke offensive drive, it would be Williams to score his fourth touchdown of the afternoon, and 17th on the season, to go up 42-7.
Duke would end the first half kicking a field goal from the red zone with five seconds left to cut the lead to 32. After Duke fumbled the ball on the first possession of the second half, UNC only needed three plays to find the end zone again, with Howell throwing a 13-yard touchdown pass to Newsome. On the Blue Devils' next possession, the UNC defense faltered and gave up a touchdown to Durant on a 46-yard run to make the score 49-17.
UNC and Duke would each score one more time in the fourth quarter before the clock ran out, ending with a final score of 56-24.
Who stood out?
Williams scored four touchdowns in the game, a career high, with three rushing and one receiving. He leads the country in total touchdowns with 17, which is tied for the fifth-most touchdowns by a UNC player in a single season.
Graduate linebacker Chazz Surratt led the team in total tackles with 12, while senior defensive back Patrice Rene and sophomore linebacker Chris Collins were tied for first in tackles for a loss with two a piece.
When was it decided?
Following the interception by Hollins at the end of the first quarter, North Carolina didn't squander the opportunity. All it took was a short pass to Carter, who was totally uncovered in the flat and ran the ball to put UNC up by four touchdowns, for the Tar Heels to have the game firmly in hand. Duke would score 24 points in the game, but it wasn't enough to come back from the massive early-game deficit.
Why does it matter?
North Carolina has struggled this season with getting shocked by teams they are favored heavily over, but there was no problem on Saturday. The Tar Heels scored a touchdown on their first seven drives, ignoring the one play they were given with one second left at the end of the first half, and never allowed Duke to seriously threaten at any point.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will play Wake Forest on Nov. 14 at noon. The Demon Deacons will come into the game on a four-game win streak following their bye this week, after losing the first two games of the season to Clemson and N.C. State.
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