DURHAM, N.C. — The fate of the Victory Bell’s shade of blue came down to the final moments of Saturday’s rivalry matchup between the North Carolina and Duke football teams.
For Drake Maye and the Tar Heels, that was plenty of time.
Head coach Mack Brown said one of the best things the team does is practice one-minute offense and defense drills. He has the players perfect these one-minute drives three times a week in practice, and on Saturday, it paid off with a thrilling 38-35 win.
Duke led 35-31 with just over two minutes remaining when Blue Devil kicker Charlie Ham missed a 43-yard field goal attempt. The Tar Heels took possession, and Maye led a game-winning, nine-play drive, ending with a touchdown pass to senior wide receiver Antoine Green with just 16 seconds left on the clock.
The Tar Heels were able to maintain their composure and come out on top in part due to their familiarity with time-sensitive plays in practice. Brown said the team has worked so hard on its one-minute offense and defense this year because it “makes such a difference in ballgames.”
“When there were two minutes and 17-or-something seconds left on the clock with one timeout, that's forever for us,” Brown said. “So I felt like we would win the game.”
But despite any amount of practice, the pressure naturally remains high in close games – especially rivalry games. Maye, who was playing in his first rivalry outing, said he was feeling some nerves before the final drive, but that his teammates were giving him a boost of confidence.
Junior wide receiver Josh Downs said that he and his teammates didn’t have any doubts about Maye and his abilities heading into the final minute of the game.
“Big time players make big time plays in big time situations, and I always stand by that,” Downs said. “I feel like some people may just need a little extra confidence, so I went up to him and I told him, ‘I'm with you.’”