Chansky’s Notebook: Big Four Bonanza

What a weekend for Big Four football.

You will have to go way back in the record books and personal memory banks to find a weekend that matches what happened to the generally beleaguered Big Four football programs. Three of them won in distinctly different scenarios and the fourth did not play but garnered almost as much attention as the other three.

Let’s start, of course, with Carolina, which had no business pulling out a 37-36 win over Pitt in the ACC opener for both teams after things went south for the Tar Heels in the first few minutes. Ryan Switzer’s 90-yard punt to the house was called back by a hold that occurred before Switzer ever caught the ball. Then Switz got caught for a safety on UNC’s first play from scrimmage.

Another turnover led the Panthers to a two touchdown lead they held until 6 minutes remained in the game. That’s when Pitt pulled in the reins on its running game that UNC could not stop, giving Carolina enough time to remarkably score 14 points on two Mitch Trubisky TD passes to Bug Howard that won the game. A loss at home would have all but killed Carolina’s chances of defending the ACC Coastal crown, while Pitt went home with its collective bell rung.

Meanwhile, Duke magically transformed itself from one of the worst football teams I have ever seen the week before at Northwestern to looking like a juggernaut at obviously overconfident but actually pretty mediocre Notre Dame in a 38-35 stunner at South Bend. Daniel Jones emerged as perhaps Duke’s next great quarterback and Breon Borders as the Blue Devils’ new Jeremy Cash in the secondary. David Cutcliffe called it the greatest victory in the history of the Duke program; certainly the most amazing win.

At Bloomington, the state of Indiana suffered another harsh embarrassment from the ACC when Wake Forest beat the unbeaten Hoosiers 33-28 to go 4-0 for the first time since the Jim Grobe era. And while N.C. State was idle, it got plenty of publicity on Thursday night when alumnus rookie third-string quarterback Jacoby Brisett led the New England Patriots to a 27-0 win over the favored Houston Texans.

Williams Obliterates Duke and the Record Book: UNC Wins 66-31

The way all the jaws were hanging to the floor in Chapel Hill, it almost appeared as if the fans at Kenan Stadium had just seen a ghost–and in some ways they did.

In front of a sell-out crowd on Saturday, the No. 21 UNC football team matched its longest winning streak since 1997 with an emphatic 66-31 blowout over the arch-rival Duke Blue Devils.

Senior quarterback Marquise Williams put together a statistical performance normally only seen in video games–starting with an 89-yard flea flicker touchdown pass to junior Ryan Switzer on the team’s first offensive play.

It was something that the UNC coaches determined they would run right out of the gate if they saw a specific coverage they were looking for.

“If the safety is not gonna fit, you can’t run that play because he can be the backside safety and run over to where the ball’s gonna be placed at,” Williams said after the game. “And I was just praying, I prayed last night before I went to sleep hoping this play is the first play and the safety just fits.

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

Ryan Switzer breaks away for his game-changing touchdown. (UNC Athletics)

“God answered my prayer,” he added.

From there, the Tar Heels refused to take their foot off the gas pedal, smashing any and every record they could get their hands on before the clock hit triple zeroes.

Having obviously eaten his Wheaties before the game, Williams completed 23-of-35 passes for 494 yards–a new school record–and accounted for five touchdowns in all. He also rushed for 30 yards, to finish with 524 total yards by himself–the first Tar Heel to ever break the 500 yard mark–in what was arguably the best performance ever by a UNC football player.

“Quise was on the money with it today,” Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora said. “He did a really nice job. We got length on the outside, we got great quickness on the outside, so we’ve got great weapons in that area.”

UNC has now racked up eight consecutive wins, and has its fifth straight victory to begin ACC play. At 8-1 overall and 5-0 against conference opponents, Fedora has his squad sitting firmly atop the league’s Coastal Division.

Duke, meanwhile, has now lost two games in a row–dropping to 6-3 in all games, and 3-2 in conference play.

Coming into Saturday, the Blue Devils boasted the nation’s ninth ranked defense–a unit surrendering just 295 yards of offense per game.

But Williams and his uber-athletic group of receivers made scoring against the Duke secondary look like child’s play.

Along with Switzer’s crowd pleasing flea flicker touchdown, the Tar Heels scored in the first half on a 79-yard rainbow from Williams to Mack Hollins, and on a 49-yard dart to Bug Howard–a play that made the score 38-10 with just one second remaining before halftime.

MJ Stewart tackles Duke's Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

MJ Stewart tackles Duke’s Max McCaffrey. (UNC Athletics)

Hollins set a career-high with 5 catches for 165 yards, while Switzer also broke the century mark–ending the game with 107 yards on 5 receptions. Howard caught three balls for 83 yards, nearly making it three receivers above the 100-yard threshold.

Star running back Elijah Hood scored three times on 17 carries, gaining 69 yards. His main contributions came as a blocker, though, picking up the blitz on a couple of Williams’ long touchdown throws.

“We feed off explosive plays, and we’re an explosive offense,” Hood said. “So one big play, and you’re bound for more, I think, with us.”

At halftime, UNC had already amassed 486 yards of total offense–before eventually finishing with 704. It’s just the third time in school history that the Tar Heels have reached the 700-yard plateau.

The Blue Devils found success running the ball against Gene Chizik’s defense with running backs Shaquille Powell (13 carries for 98 yards) and Jela Duncan (13 carries for 115 yards)–but simply could not keep up with the Tar Heels’ break-neck scoring pace.

Duncan’s 52-yard touchdown run in the second quarter brought the score to 21-10. That was the closest it would get the rest of the game.

“I heard one of the [Duke players] tell [Ryan] Switzer, ‘This is gonna be a long day,'” Williams said. “I started laughing when I heard a guy said that. I told Coach [Fedora], ‘We gotta keep going, we gotta keep going. The guy’s already feeling like this is gonna be a long game for ’em, so let’s keep going.'”

Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk struggled with his accuracy, completing just 18 of his 37 throws for 191 yards and two interceptions on the day. He did do some damage of his own in the running game, however, scrambling eight times for 74 yards–including a pair of touchdown scampers in the third quarter, one from 53 yards out and another from four yards away.

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

The 2015 group gets to hold on to the Victory Bell for another year. (UNC Athletics)

UNC continued to show no mercy, however, as Elijah Hood ran in two scores of his own in the quarter. Williams also found senior Quinshad Davis during the frame to make it four touchdown passes to four different receivers.

As has become the norm this season when the Tar Heels play at home, the fourth quarter was strictly a formality.

The backups, led by sophomore quarterback Mitch Trubisky, played out the final period–but not without getting in on the fun.

Trubisky ran in a score from two yards out to put UNC above the 60-point mark, the first time it has hit that total this season.

For the second straight year, the Victory Bell will reside in Chapel Hill–much to the delight of Mack Hollins and the rest of the Tar Heel team.

“All week at practice, the bell was [there],” Hollins said. “I was big into screaming, ‘Duke Week’ and ‘Ring my bell’, and all that stuff. So to have it on our sideline after, and to know that it’s ours for a whole ‘nother 365 [days] is a great feeling.”

Up Next:

The red-hot Tar Heels will play their final home game of the year next Saturday against Miami. As it stands right now, UNC controls its own destiny in the ACC Coastal Division, and is in the driver’s seat for a spot in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Game Notes:

  • Marquise Williams’ 4-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was his 80th touchdown accounted for in a Carolina uniform, moving him past former quarterback Darian Durant (2001-2004) for the UNC school record in that category.
  • It took UNC just 2:01 with the ball to score its first two touchdowns.
  • The Tar Heels scored points on 10 of their 13 drives, and their 66 points were the most they’ve ever scored in an ACC game.


UNC-Duke: This One’s Bigger Than the Bell

Each year since 1948 UNC and Duke have battled on the gridiron for the right to ring the Victory Bell on the way out of the stadium.

But when the rivalry is renewed in Chapel Hill on Saturday, the Victory Bell won’t be the only thing at stake—which is a far cry from years past.

Winners of seven games in a row, the Tar Heels lead the ACC Coastal Division, are 4-0 against conference competition, and bring a 7-1 overall record into Saturday’s grudge match against coach David Cutcliffe’s Blue Devils–who are 6-2 with a 3-1 conference mark.

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels' recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

Marquise Williams has been the catalyst of the Tar Heels’ recent win streak, and of their Victory Bell win against Duke last year. (Mark Dolejs/ USA Today Sports)

UNC will also sport a fancy number next to its name during the broadcast for the first time this season, as the makers of the AP Top 25 ranked head coach Larry Fedora’s bunch as the 21st best squad in the land this week.

“I haven’t really talked to them about that,” Fedora said on Monday. “Because our goal hasn’t been to be in the poll. That’s not what our goal is. We’ve got bigger goals than that. That just happens to come with it.

“But it really doesn’t change who we are,” the coach continued. “Who we were [last] Thursday night [against Pitt] when we weren’t ranked and who we are today, we’re still the same team.”

Last week Duke was ranked 22nd in the polls, but lost to Miami by way of a miracle last second kickoff return. That play robbed fans of both schools from seeing them play as ranked football teams for the first time in 76 years.

For once, Tar Heels like senior receiver Quinshad Davis, had no clue how to feel about a Blue Devil loss.

“It was a love/hate thing,” Davis said about the wild finish. “Because [we] love that they lost, but we hate that they aren’t going to be ranked when we play ’em, and it’ll be a big time game.”

Kenan Stadium has been sold out for this meeting for over a week now, as the anticipation reaches basketball-level heights here in the Triangle area. Now that the football rivalry is beginning to spread its wings just a bit, Davis and the rest of his teammates are itching to hit the field and show what they can do in front of a packed house.

“[The rivalry’s] always been a big deal with the football team,” the receiver told reporters on Tuesday. “But as far as the fan base goes it’s become a big deal because both teams are winning and both have a chance to win the Coastal this year.”

For seniors like Davis, offensive guard Landon Turner, and quarterback Marquise Williams—this game is especially huge because they’ve played in it during times where neither team was on anyone’s national radar. Back then, it was all about the bell.

Among the football players, this rivalry has always been huge.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

Among the football players themselves, this rivalry has always been huge. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)

And in Turner’s eyes, that message has not been lost, regardless of what the standings say.

“It’s kinda nice to see it be big for everyone else, but it really hadn’t changed how we feel about it,” he said. “It’s the Battle for the Bell, and I think both teams–both football teams, not basketball teams–are really understanding of that.”

Over the last 24 games between the schools located just a handful of miles apart, the Tar Heels have dominated, going 21-3 in that span—including a 45-20 win in Durham last year where Williams was fantastic, throwing for 276 yards and accounting for four touchdowns.

“We took care of business last year, but this year’s a new year,” Williams said. “I’m looking forward to keeping [the bell] here where it belongs.

The Charlotte native continued by acknowledging this is the senior class’s final chance at glory in this classic rivalry.

“It’d be great for my last year to keep the bell here, and have our fans ringing the bell after the game,” he said.

A win Saturday would keep the bell in Chapel Hill, while also playing a large role in sending UNC to a place it’s never been before—the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

Doesn’t that have a nice ring to it?


Broadcast Information:

WCHL will be broadcasting the game live on our airwaves, with kickoff set to take place at noon. ESPN2 will have the TV coverage.

Game Notes:

  • Junior cornerback Brian Walker, a key cog in UNC’s pass defense ranked third in the country in yards allowed, left the team last Wednesday. He is expected to seek a transfer in order to get more playing time.
  • With two touchdowns on Saturday, Marquise Williams would become the school’s all-time leader in that category, passing former quarterback Darian Durant–who accounted for 79 in his career (passing, rushing, and receiving.)
  • UNC is one of only 10 teams in the country to average more than 200 yards rushing (210.3) and 250 yards passing (259.8) per game.

Stroman On Sports: Endings And Injuries

Last weekend was a wild one in the world of sports: the Miami-Duke football game came with an ending unlike any we’ve seen before, and the New York Mets gave up another late lead in losing the World Series to the Kansas City Royals.

UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School professor Deborah Stroman is an expert on sport analytics. In her weekly segment with Aaron Keck on WCHL, she talks about strange endings – and the always-tricky decision coaches and managers must make: when to remove fatigued players from a game?

Cash Expected to Make Huge Impact on UNC-Duke Matchup

When UNC quarterback Marquise Williams gets the ball on Saturday in the Tar Heels’ battle with Duke, he’ll be facing a defense ranked ninth in the country, and giving up just 295 yards per game.

As good as they are as a group, there’s one Blue Devil in particular that Williams will have to keep his eye on all day to have a shot at pulling out the win.

All week long the Tar Heel players and coaches have had to take questions about Duke senior safety Jeremy Cash.

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

Jeremy Cash has proven that he can take over games for the Blue Devils. (Streeter Lecka/ Getty Images)

The 6-foot-2 Miami native transferred to Durham in 2012 from perennial powerhouse Ohio State and has been working his way up NFL Draft rankings ever since—racking up 181 tackles and eight sacks over the past year and a half.

That body of work has some analysts projecting him as a first round pick—which should be more than enough to merit Williams’ full attention.

“Jeremy Cash is one heck of a football player,” Williams said at Monday’s weekly press conference. “I’ve been watching him a couple years now. He’s been doing a tremendous job what he’s doing at blitz packages or covering guys.

“He’s one of the top guys in the ACC,” he continued. “Or in the country.”

UNC comes into the matchup averaging 470 yards of total offense per game, so something will have to give this weekend.

Sophomore running back Elijah Hood is on pace to be the Tar Heels’ first 1000-yard rusher since current Cincinnati Bengal Gio Bernard accomplished the feat in 2012–and just the third to do it since 1997–but he says the offense may have to make a few adjustments this week to deal with Cash’s unique skill set.

“I feel like this week we might have something a little special because Jeremy Cash is particularly a special player when it comes to blitzing and getting tackles for losses,” Hood said. “There might be something we put in just in case, you know, make sure we’re alerted whenever he’s in the nickel or trying to come off the edge.

“He can be…kind of a disruption whenever he has the opportunity.”

Although Cash’s primary role is that of a deep safety, he also plays some linebacker and cornerback—in order to stuff the run and match up with opposing inside receivers–which means UNC’s slithery slot man Ryan Switzer may have a tough time breaking off the big plays he’s produced in recent weeks.

Tar Heel head coach Larry Fedora wouldn’t disclose any of his game plan specifics, but did acknowledge the challenge in front of him.

“He is a really good football player,” Fedora said about Cash. “They put him in a lot of different places, they do a lot of things with him, and he’s really good. He’s the heart and soul of their defense.”

UNC's Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

UNC’s Ryan Switzer (3) will likely spend some time lining up against Cash this Saturday. (UNC Athletics)

Aside from last Saturday’s devastating loss to Miami, the result of a walk-off eight-lateral kick return touchdown, Cash and the Blue Devils have become contenders to win the ACC Coastal Division by limiting the type of explosive gains that have propelled the Tar Heels to the top of the division standings.

“They’re a sound fundamental football team,” Hood said. “They’re always in position. You don’t really see that many busts in what they’re doing or the way they’re attacking the [running] lanes. Their discipline and the way they execute in situations is something they do well.”

There’s an old saying in sports that talent recognizes talent.

So if there’s anyone that can speak to the ability of Duke’s super safety, it’s UNC’s own first round NFL prospect—senior offensive guard Landon Turner.

“I think his biggest thing is he just makes plays,” Turner said after practice on Tuesday. “It seems like he’s all over the field and he’s in every play.

“I can tell he’s definitely a leader on that side of the ball, and that’s tough to contend with,” he added. “We’re gonna have our hands full with that this weekend.”

Tar Heels Reclaim Victory Bell, Down Duke

The North Carolina football team dashed out to a commanding 28-7 halftime lead and went on to beat rival Duke 45-20 Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium to improve to 6-5 on the season and in the process, gain bowl eligibility.

With the loss, the Blue Devils dropped to 8-3 on the season and handed the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets the ACC Coastal division crown and a spot in the ACC Championship game opposite Florida State.

Marquise Williams threw for 374 yards and scored four touchdowns to lead the Tar Heel offense to a torrid start, and despite a few hiccups in the second quarter that could have broken the game open further, turned in an impressive performance that the careless Blue Devils were unable to match.

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

Williams back for the snap (Elliott Rubin)

In an encouraging sign, for the first time this season, the Tar Heels had a running back eclipse the 100-yard mark in a game. It was T.J. Logan who earned the distinction with 117 yards and a touchdown.

“I think we finally put together a complete game in all three phases – offensively, defensively and special teams. Other than the three turnovers we had offensively, it couldn’t have been a more solid game for us,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says.

In a surprising twist, the much-maligned Tar Heel defense rose to the occasion, coming up with big stops after the offensive miscues in the second quarter that gave Duke a chance to hang around in the game.

“It was huge. For the defense to go out there in those situations and hold them to no points after those three fumbles, that was big. And that gave a shot of adrenaline to the entire team,” Coach Fedora says.

Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone tossed two touchdowns and threw for 262 yards, but he was sacked three times and gave away an interception.

“I don’t know if there are words that fit how you feel. I told the team after the game, I said ‘First thing I don’t want you to forget is all this winning that has led us to a Thursday night opportunity on national television playing your arch rival. Obviously it was a disaster from our standpoint,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe says.

On Duke’s first drive, UNC linebacker Jeff Schoettmer recovered a fumble. It got the Tar Heels rolling.

From there, the offense raced ahead. A 3-yard touchdown pass from Williams to Switzer got UNC on the scoreboard first, and then the defense pitched in again with a 10-yard fumble return for a touchdown by senior safety Tim Scott.

At the end of the first quarter, the Tar Heels had claimed a 21-7 lead over the Blue Devils. Duke got on the board with a 10-yard touchdown heave by Boone into the arms of Isaac Blakeney.

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

The Victory Bell (UNC Athletics)

But that was the home team’s only score of the half to the dismay of the crowd. As for UNC, it added seven more points to its ledger thanks to a 1-yard Williams keeper into the end zone with 13:02 on the second quarter clock.

On the critical second half opening drive, the Blue Devils turned the ball over when Boone tossed an interception to MJ Stewart.

The Tar Heels took advantage immediately with an impressive offensive possession that ended with a one-yard touchdown by TJ Logan with 9:10 remaining in the third quarter.

Everything was going right for the Tar Heels. A season-long 30-yard field goal make by Thomas Moore to push the lead up to 38-7 with 6:23 in the third quarter, confirmed that. It was that kind of night.

UNC coasted from there, gliding to the rivalry win that earned  them back the coveted Victory Bell after a two-year hiatus.

Next up for the Tar Heels comes a season-ending in-state matchup with the N.C. State Wolfpack next Saturday in Chapel Hill.


Tar Heels, Blue Devils Battle For The Bell

The North Carolina football team, 5-5 on the season, meets 8-2 rival Duke Thursday night in front of a nationally-televised audience at Wallace Wade Stadium. The Battle for the Bell kicks off at 7:30 p.m.

With the short week, UNC head coach Larry Fedora says the Tar Heels have had to adjust everything about their preparation.

“It’s not normal. The whole week is different for you. The players have to do a great job of staying in the moment and make sure they have adjusted their minds to what day of practice it is. It’s a different situation for them,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora consoles the Pitt head coach last weekend (Elliott Rubin)

Coach Fedora consoles the Pitt head coach last weekend (Elliott Rubin)

Duke is coming off a disappointing 17-16 home loss to Coastal division foe Virginia Tech, but still controls its own destiny in the race to the ACC Championship game in Charlotte.

The hungry Tar Heels, coming off a 40-35 victory  over Pittsburgh, would like nothing more than to knock their bitter rivals off their desired path to the Queen City.

But UNC junior linebacker Shakeel Rashad says the Tar Heels will be up against it with the efficient Duke attack bolstered by a rock-solid offensive line.

“They’re very efficient. They don’t really make mistakes. Their offensive line really works well together. They’ve got some great players at quarterback and receiver. They’re spread out all over the field, and they’ve got a lot of people who can make big plays on the offensive line that allows them to do it,” Rashad says.

Coach Fedora says it’s Duke’s speedy wide receiver Jamison Crowder that gives him the most cause for concern.

Crowder has 5,197 career all-purpose yards and recently became only the 11th player in ACC football history to reach the 5,000 yard plateau.

“That guy [Crowder] can do it all. He’s got great speed and catches the ball really well. They use him in the return game, too. He’s a special player. Watching him for three years, he’s a dang-good player,” Coach Fedora says.

Blue Devil head coach David Cucliffe says preparing for Coach Fedora’s up-tempo and high-powered offense in just a few days has been a stern challenge.

“I have the upmost respect for what they [UNC] do. They do it extremely well. Coach Fedora is one of the brightest offensive minds in the game. I’ve followed his career all the way back, whether it was Florida, Middle Tennessee or Oklahoma State. He’s been on the cutting edge. They present a lot of problems. There’s no question they’re difficult to get ready for in just a few days,” Coach Cutcliffe says.

There will be an intriguing position battle in the contest with dynamic signal caller Marquise Williams going up against the much-improved Duke quarterback Anthony Boone.

Boone had a rough outing against the Hokies last weekend, but says he’s confident his team will take better care of the football against the Tar Heels.

“It’s not really a huge concern. We’ve had pretty good success as far as not turning the ball over and creating explosive plays. We’ve just got to go out there and be who we are and not try to speed it up too much or worry about what they’re doing. We’ve just got to go out there and execute our offense,” Boone says.

UNC’s Rashad says not having the Victory Bell out at practice the past couple seasons has been painful and has only fueled his teammates’ ambitions to reclaim the prize.

Marquise Williams escapes a defender (Elliott Rubin)

Marquise Williams escapes a defender (Elliott Rubin)

“It’s something that’s really important around here. This game means a lot to a lot of people. It means a lot to us. I remember my freshman year; we had the Bell out here at practice that week. So not seeing it out here the last couple years, you’re reminded of it,” Rashad says.

On the gridiron, UNC holds a 58-38-4 advantage in the all-time head-to-head series between the two schools.

The 101st meeting promises to be a compelling one, but the underdog Tar Heels will certainly need to put together a complete four quarters of clean, disciplined football to recapture the Victory Bell in enemy territory Thursday night.

Bowl President: ‘No Doubt’ About No. 22 Duke

DURHAM — Chick-fil-A Bowl president Gary Stokan wants to set the record straight: His bowl always wanted No. 22 Duke.

Speaking Thursday during a news conference at the Blue Devils’ team headquarters, Stokan shot down rumors that he would have preferred another ACC team in his bowl.

He says he “understands there’s been some mention of politics” but adds that “there was no doubt in our minds” about Duke.

Stokan adds that “there was nothing that went on behind the scenes” about possibly choosing another ACC school — possibly Miami or Virginia Tech — ahead of Duke.

The Blue Devils (10-3) will play No. 20 Texas A&M (8-4) on Dec. 31 in the Atlanta-based bowl.

Duke’s Coach Cutcliffe Named National Coach of the Year

DURHAM — Duke Football head coach David Cutcliffe was named National Coach of the Year by the Walter Camp Foundation on Wednesday.

Cutcliffe led the Blue Devils to a 10-2 record and an ACC Coastal Division title in 2013. His team will face No. 1 Florida State this Saturday in the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte.

This season was Duke’s first winning season since 1994. Their 10 wins is the most any Duke football squad has ever won.

Cutcliffe was also the ACC Coach of the Year in both 2012 and 2013.

The Walter Camp Coach of the Year is chosen by 125 Football Bowl Subdivision head coaches and sports information directors across the nation.

GAME RECAP: Duke 27, UNC 25

CHAPEL HILL– No. 24 Duke pulled out a tight 27-25 win over Carolina to claim the Coastal Division title and earn a trip to the ACC Championship Game to face No. 2 Florida State next Saturday.

The game was tense throughout, but DeVon Edwards picked off Marquise Williams with 13 seconds left in the game to seal the victory for the Blue Devils in Chapel Hill. Duke improved to 10-2 on the year while UNC fell to 6-6.

Third downs told the tale of the game. The Blue Devils converted on eight of their 15 attempts while the Tar Heels were just two for 12.

Anthony Boone opened up in the quarterback position for the Duke offense. The Blue Devils use a dual system at quarterback. The opening drive was uneventful for the Blue Devils as a spirited Tar Heel defense stopped them three and out.

The Tar Heels opened up their drive with a solid completion to Quinshad Davis. T.J. Logan dashed ahead for a good pickup into Duke territory next. But ultimately, Carolina was bottled up and a 42-yard Thomas Moore field goal was missed wide right to the dismay of the crowd.

Duke took the ensuing possession and pushed the ball across midfield with some nifty plays, but the Tar Heel defense stiffened up, and a tackle by Shawn Underwood on third down forced a punt.

Electricity ensued for the Tar Heels. Eric Ebron, playing in his final home game in a Carolina uniform after declaring for the NFL Draft, snagged a 79-yard catch – the longest of his career.

***Listen to the play***


And two plays later, Marquise Williams capped off the scoring drive with a keeper into the end zone.

Carolina posted a 7-0 lead with 8:22 to play in the first quarter to the delight of a packed out Kenan Stadium.

But Duke was ready to respond. They marched the ball right down the field with precision passing and inspired running up the middle. A 74-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 17-yard touchdown pass from Boone to Jamison Crowder. It was Crowder’s 85th catch of the year and tied a Duke record.

And to make matters worse, UNC’s Travis Hughes was assessed a 15 yard unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of the scoring play.

At the close of the first quarter, the score was deadlocked at seven. Duke had managed eight first downs to Carolina’s four. Duke’s signal caller Anthony Boone had received all the snaps and went six for eight for 64 yards.

The second quarter started strong for Carolina thanks to a beautiful punt by Tommy Hibbard that pinned Duke inside their own five yard line.

But the poor field position did nothing to deter the Duke offensive attack. Tight end Braxton Deaver was tearing apart the Carolina defense with laser-like passes from Anthony Boone. The whole length of the field was traversed by the Blue Devils.

The 8:20 second drive was stalled inside the five yard line. It was a big goal line stand for the Tar Heels. In fact, it was the first time all season Duke had first and goal to go and didn’t score a touchdown.

The Blue Devils made the field goal, however, and went up 10-7 with 6:31 left in the half.

Disaster struck for the Blue Devils next. Crowder fumbled the punt, and the Tar Heels recovered at the Duke 34-yard line. Could Carolina cash in?

Well, a huge fourth down conversion was completed to Eric Ebron. And a few plays later, a fumble into the end zone was under review by the officials. It appeared on the replay that UNC was either down on the half-yard line or had scored a touchdown before the ball came loose.

The officials ruled Logan was down. It was a first and goal for the Tar Heels. And Marquise Williams ran around the end for an easy touchdown.

UNC Head Coach Larry Fedora elected to go for a two-point conversion on some trickery with a fake field goal. The kicker Hibbard threw a pass to get the two points and place the Tar Heels up 15-10 with 1:30 left in the half.

How did Duke respond? With a 99-yard kickoff return by DeVon Edwards, of course, to take the lead 17-15.

UNC couldn’t answer on the following drive as the Duke defense got some pressure on Williams in the backfield. A Hibbard punt gave the Blue Devils the ball on their own 11 with little time left on the clock.

At the half, it was Duke with a whopping 17 first downs to a mere 7 for UNC. Quarterback Marquise Williams was 8 for 15 for 156 yards. Eric Ebron set the single season record for yardage by an ACC tight end with his 103 first half yards.

Duke’s Kelby Brown picked off Williams on the opening drive of the second half for the Tar Heels. The pass was intended for Ebron.

And after the turnover, Boone hit a wide open receiver to give the Blue Devils a first and goal situation. And Jamison Crowder made an incredible grab in the back of the end zone to give Duke a 124-15 lead with 12:08 on the clock in the third quarter. What an athletic Crowder catch that was.

UNC’s play calling was a bit redundant on their next drive. They threw three straight bombs and failed to convert on fourth down to hand the ball back to Duke. The killer on that drive was a dropped ball by T.J. Logan inside the five-yard line.

The Blue Devils were back at it and could sense another score would do a lot to help their chances of reaching the ACC Championship Game in Charlotte next weekend.

But a nice third down break-up by Tre Boston and a poorly thrown ball by Boone on a fourth down try gave the ball back to Carolina.

Eric Ebron made a nice sideline grab to pick up a first down into Duke territory for Carolina. UNC really needed a score. And they got it. Davis broke free for a score to energize the crowd and get UNC within two points at 24-22 with 5:10 left in third quarter.

On the next chance for Duke, it was the UNC defense that started strong. They forced a third and long play. But the Blue Devils converted on yet another third down. That was becoming a theme of the day. Duke was now 7 for 11 on third downs.

Another third down arose for Duke at the Carolina 44. Darius Lipford stepped up to supply big pressure and force a Duke punt.

Switzer sped around the end for a nine yard pickup for UNC. Logan then took the ball for a 14-yard burst that had Carolina off and running yet again.

But a no call on a possible pass interference on Ebron left Coach Fedora fuming on the sidelines. He spent the entire rest of the series yelling at the referees.

A beautiful punt by Hibbard gave Duke the ball at their own three yard line to start their offensive series.

The Carolina defense came to play in the second half. A massive tackle by Malik Simmons on third down and six forced another Duke punt.

Switzer was taken down at the UNC 32 and the Tar Heels were set to start another important drive. And it began on a rough note. A holding penalty backed Carolina up.

But the offense clicked after that. The 12-play, 4:50 drive resulted in a 37-yard field goal for Thomas Moore. He nailed it down the middle to give the Tar Heels a 25-24 lead with 7:03 to play.

An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Russell Bodine, however, might have cost UNC a chance at a touchdown.

On the next possession, Tre Boston dropped an errant throw by Boone. It should have been an interception. And Boone capitalized on a nice throw over the middle that set Duke up for a good scoring chance at the UNC 33-yard line.

The Tar Heel defense stiffened yet again to hold Duke to a field goal. With 2:22 remaining in the contest, the Blue Devils were clinging to a 27-25 lead.

Thanks to a block in the back penalty, the Carolina offense would start their final drive of the game inside their own 10-yard line.

A face mask penalty helped Carolina’s cause, moving them out to the 25-yard line. A Switzer first down moved the ball to the 36-yard line with just under a minute to go.

Williams picked up a fourth down with his legs, but he threw an easy interception a couple plays later to hand the game over to Duke with 13 seconds remaining in game.