The North Carolina football team (6-1, 3-0 ACC) held off rival Duke (4-3, 1-2 ACC) on Saturday, 38-35, logging its fourth consecutive win over the Blue Devils.
UNC’s offense started off with a bang, as redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye fired a 53-yard pass to senior wide receiver Antoine Green. After a fumble followed by an incomplete pass by Maye, the Tar Heels opted for a 45-yard field goal to give them an early lead.
On their first drive, the Blue Devils wasted no time; they picked up five first downs on seven plays, resulting in a touchdown from running back Jordan Waters. UNC answered promptly with a touchdown pass to junior tight end Kamari Morales, putting the Tar Heels up 10-7.
Opening the second quarter, Duke got within 3 yards of UNC’s end zone, but could not convert. On UNC’s first drive of the quarter, Maye rushed 15 yards to secure a first down, then completed a 25-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver JJ Jones. However, two incomplete passes ended the play, forcing UNC to punt.
Duke seized the lead with just over five minutes left in the quarter, as Leonard rushed for 74 yards to score a breakaway touchdown, putting the Blue Devils up 14-10.
UNC’s defense struggled against the speed of the Blue Devils’ running backs, as Duke scored again with just under two minutes left in the half. The Tar Heels quickly responded, though, scoring a touchdown as Maye completed a pass to sophomore running back Caleb Hood to reduce UNC’s deficit to four going into halftime.
After UNC stopped Duke’s first drive of the second half, Maye launched a 38-yard pass to junior wide receiver Josh Downs, and sophomore running back Elijah Green rushed the remaining one yard to cap off the touchdown play and take the lead, 24-21.
In the tail end of the third quarter, Maye threw a bullet to Antoine Green, gaining a first down; in the next play, Maye fired off a 31-yard pass to Downs, and from there, Elijah Green rushed 20-yards for a UNC touchdown. The Tar Heels led 31-21 entering the final quarter.
Leonard completed a 30-yard pass at the onset of the fourth quarter, followed by a 20-yard touchdown pass to Duke wide receiver Sahmir Hagans, putting the Blue Devils within three points of the lead.
After forcing a three-and-out, Duke’s offense got another attempt, which they converted after a 28-yard pass from Leonard followed by a 38-yard rush by Waters. This drive reclaimed the lead for Duke, 35-31.
With under 20 seconds remaining, the Antoine caught an 8-yard touchdown pass from Maye. This last-minute play gave the Tar Heels the winning edge with a 38-35 lead that withstood the final 16 seconds.
Who stood out?
Downs spearheaded UNC’s offense, catching 9 passes for 126 receiving yards – over a third of the team’s total. Elijah Green was also a key offensive player, tallying two touchdowns on just rushing 24 yards.
On the defensive end, the Tar Heels were reliant on a collective effort from sophomores Power Echols and DeAndre Boykins, both of whom tallied five solo tackles. Boykin also recorded the team’s only sack. Senior Cam’Ron Kelly and junior Cedric Gray also contributed a solid effort, logging six total tackles each, three of which were solo. The Tar Heels’ defensive unit held the Blue Devils scoreless in the third quarter.
When was it decided?
It was anyone’s game up until the last 20 seconds, when Maye hurled a touchdown pass to Antoine Green to take the lead with just 16 seconds remaining. At this point, the Blue Devils were against the clock, and failed to drive into field goal range.
Why does it matter?
The Tar Heels added another conference win to their record, making them undefeated in ACC play. UNC was also able to add a tally to its winning streak against the Blue Devils, who have yet to defeat the Tar Heels since the return of Mack Brown to Chapel Hill.
When do they play next?
After a bye weekend, the Tar Heels will be back in action in Kenan Stadium on Oct. 29 to face Pittsburgh for their fourth ACC matchup of the season.
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