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No. 24 UNC football beats Duke, 47-45, in double-overtime homecoming victory

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UNC junior TE John Copenhaver hugs junior TE Bryson Nesbit after Nesbit scored a touchdown, which was later invalidated by a penalty during UNC's game against Duke on Sat. Nov. 11, 2023 in Kenan Memorial Stadium.

The No. 24 UNC football team (8-2, 4-2 ACC) bested Duke (6-4, 3-3 ACC), 47-45, Saturday night to eek out a double-overtime victory in its final home game of the season. 

Sophomore quarterback Drake Maye ended the night with 342 passing yards with junior wide receiver Tez Walker as his top target, recording 162 yards. Sophomore running back Omarion Hampton recorded the most rushing yards with 169.

"You talk about toughness, you talk about character, you talk about culture, you talk about confidence — these things are hard to do," head coach Mack Brown said after the game. "I'm so proud, even when they got in overtime, we weren't playing very good defense at the time and they found a way."

On the first drive North Carolina came out strong, with Maye immediately making a short 4-yard pass to Hampton to open the game. From there, Maye alternated between passing and handing off the ball to make quick work of getting down the field. Maye capped off the drive with a 1-yard quarterback keeper into the end zone to grant UNC the early lead. 

Duke’s offense, spearheaded by third-string quarterback Grayson Loftis, was shut down completely in the ensuing drive, advancing only four yards on one rush and two incomplete passes before having to punt.

The game continued in a similar fashion throughout the remainder of the first quarter and into the early minutes of the second, and the UNC offense was able to continue driving the ball down the field to notch two field goals and 13-0 lead.

Momentum shifted in the middle of the second quarter, when Duke scored on a nine-play, 70-yard drive, after Loftis finally started to connect with his receivers. Directly after the Blue Devils put their first points on the board, Maye threw his first interception of the night, picked up by Duke safety Jaylen Stinson, handing the ball right back to the Blue Devils at first-and-10. 

Duke capitalized, and rushed the ball into the end zone to take a 14-13 lead. North Carolina regrouped to find an answer in the final minutes of the half, driving the ball down the field in eight plays — highlighted by a 48-yard completion to Walker — but was once more unable to make the final push into the end zone, settling for a third field goal and taking back the lead by a two-point margin. 

The second half got off to a slow start, with neither team able to make much forward momentum offensively. The Tar Heels broke through first, getting the ball into the red zone but settling for yet another field goal, to bump the score up to 19-14.

The rest of the third quarter passed by without either team seeing any more scoring opportunities and displaying strong defensive performances. However, Hampton rushed the ball directly into the end zone to kick off the fourth quarter, giving UNC a two-score lead for the first time since the middle of the first half.  

Duke found a response, and graduate running back Jordan Waters notched a 13-yard rushing touchdown to give him 68 yards on the night — the most of any Blue Devil — and bring the gap down to one score again. Capitalizing off possession gained from a faked punt return, Waters was able to build off the momentum and score again, completing the two-point conversion to give the Blue Devils a three-point lead with just over five minutes remaining.

North Carolina brought itself right back into the game with a 15-yard touchdown pass caught by Nesbit, followed by a good kick to once more tilt the game in the Tar Heel's favor with two minutes left on the clock.

"What a catch," Maye said of the Nesbit completion. "He was playing through injuries, he gets banged up, made another big slant catch on [the] two minute drill to get us a field goal — Bryson's a ball player."

UNC wasn't ahead for long, however, as for the third time in the fourth quarter, Duke found the end zone off a 30-yard reception from wide receiver Jordan Moore and surged ahead, 36-33. Junior kicker Noah Burnette was able to make a last-minute 43-yard field goal — his fifth of the night — to tie the game and force overtime. 

"I'm extremely proud of Noah," graduate linebacker Cedric Gray said. "If I'm not mistaken I don't think he's missed a single field goal this year — just one — but he's made some timely kicks and just handled himself really, really well."

The Tar Heels shut down the Blue Devils on their first drive of OT, forcing a 49-yard field goal attempt which was made by kicker Todd Pelino. Duke came right back at them, forcing the Burnette to also kick a field goal — albeit a 24-yard one — to tie the game once more. 

On the ensuing drive, Maye was able to rush the ball into the end zone, and then successfully complete the two-point conversion with a pass to junior tight end John Copenhaver. Duke responded with a touchdown, but was unable to complete the conversion due to strong defensive pressure from the Tar Heels, giving UNC its fifth consecutive win over the Blue Devils, 47-45.

The Tar Heels will next take the field to face Clemson in Death Valley on Saturday, Nov. 18 at 3:30 p.m.

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.