Duke falls to UNC in heart-pounding atmosphere at Wallace Wade

Almost everything that could have gone well for Duke before Saturday night’s game against rival North Carolina did. The stadium was packed, the student section showed in force and they saw a number of key players, including the first wide receiver Milestone Calhoun and reserve linebacker Tre Freeman come out healthy after being bumped up during the week.

In the first half, despite giving up a long passing game in the first snap of the game at UNC quarterback Drake May, Duke’s offense was the one that overpowered the Tar Heels and would take a 21-17 halftime lead. The Blue Devils have set up 261 total yards, including 192 rushing despite missing their main defenseman in Jaylen Coleman and a key offensive lineman in Maurice McIntyre. A big reason for that was the quarterback Riley Leonardwhich had 109 yards on nine carries in just two quarters of play. Much of those yards came on a 74-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give the Blue Devils a 14-10 lead they wouldn’t give up for the rest of halftime.

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Duke would end the first half with a 18:26-11:34 time of possession advantage, highlighted by their four drives that either ended inside the UNC five-yard line or resulted in a touchdown. In hindsight, the Blue Devils probably would have thrown the basket in their second practice which ended in a turnover on the downs, but their defense held off the UNC offense in the ensuing practice and forced a punt to return the ball to the Duke offense. It was the drive Leonard would cut through the Tar Heels defense for his long 74-yard touchdown run.

The defense showed up in the first two quarters, with a fumble recovered by Shaka Heyward that drove a 33-yard drive to give Duke a 21-10 lead, one of the unit’s statement plays of Robb Smith at the start of the game. On the final drive of the first half, however, allowing the UNC offense to go 75 yards down the field to cut the lead to just four points after such a dominant first half is one that will lead to many lessons when reviewing the film.

But in the second half, things would turn out very differently for the home team as they were forced to play on their first two offensive possessions and allowed the Tar Heels to score on a long touchdown to regain the lead on their first of the third. trimester. Every time there was a call that could have gone either way, it was in favor of the visitors, and Duke head coach Mike Elko was repeatedly livid with the referees. One play in particular, a DeWayne Carter sack on Maye that would have pushed UNC deep into their territory was called off by a blunt call from the umpire team despite not whistling to call the dead game.

UNC would dominate the third quarter, scoring 14 straight points to go up 31-21 as the Blue Devils offense mustered just two rushing yards after racking up 192 through the first two quarters. But Duke’s offense found another gear in the fourth quarter, with Riley Leonard connecting on two big plays, a 30-yarder to Nicky Dalmolin and a 20-yarder to Sahmir Hagans in the end zone as the home team cut the lead to 31-28. with 2:12 to play.

Duke’s defense would also ramp up the intensity, forcing a UNC punt as the Blue Devils offense scored a touchdown to regain the lead at 35-31. On the Tar Heels’ next practice, defensive end RJ Oben would force a fumble from Drake Maye and the Duke offense took over with 7:32 left and looked to burn the clock with a four-point lead. They would do just that, stepping onto the court behind tough runs from Jordan Waters, Jaquez Moore and Riley Leonard as time ticked under 2:35 to play. UNC called its first timeout with 2:32 remaining and Duke faced a 3rd-and-2 from the UNC 11-yard line. Two penalties later saw the Blue Devils repelled and a basket from Charlie Ham sailed right.

Drake Maye again found a receiver in the end zone on a two-minute situation to put the Tar Heels ahead at 38-35 with just 16 seconds left in the game.

A UNC interception would seal the game for the visitors with just two seconds on the clock.

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