Sunday, October 21, 2012

Duke 33, UNC 30: Tar Heels' Rewind

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina suffered a 33-30 defeat at Duke on Saturday night. On the day after, a look back at a game that will be remembered for its wild finish:

Three quick things to away from the Tar Heels’ 33-30 loss against the Blue Devils:

1. What an ending. Trailing for nearly the entire game, UNC rallied and took the lead with its third touchdown in the fourth quarter. When Giovani Bernard picked up Erik Highsmith’s fumble and ran into the end zone, UNC led 30-26. But Duke drove 87 yards in 14 plays to score the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds to play.

2. Games like this could make the UNC-Duke football rivalry relevant again. A rivalry isn’t really a rivalry when one team dominates as much as North Carolina has dominated this series for the past two decades. But given Duke’s steady improvement under coach David Cutcliffe, there’s no reason why games like these can’t become the norm.

3. What happened to the UNC run defense? The Tar Heels allowed 234 yards rushing, by far its most of the season. UNC didn’t allow all that many yards per carry – a relatively modest 4.4 – but the Heels couldn’t consistently slow down the Blue Devils’ running game.


After nearly 60 minutes, the game came down to this: Duke, with a fourth down from the North Carolina 5-yard line, trailed 30-26. About 20 seconds remained. Sean Renfree, the Blue Devils quarterback, took the snap, bided his time and threw short pass over the middle to Jamison Crowder, who made the catch between a couple of Tar Heels’ defenders. With that, Duke went ahead 33-30 with 13 seconds to play.


1. Josh Snead/Jela Duncan/Juwan Thompson. Duke’s trio of running backs combined for 237 yards rushing and one touchdown. Snead finished with a team-high 99 yards, but all three backs were instrumental in keeping the Blue Devils’ offense moving – and in keeping UNC’s offense off the field.

2. Giovani Bernard. The Tar Heels sophomore running back finished with 143 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns – one of them coming after he recovered Highsmith’s fumble and ran into the end zone to give UNC a brief late in the fourth quarter.

3. Conner Vernon. Another Saturday, another solid game for Vernon, the Duke senior receiver who finished with 124 yards on six catches.


North Carolina entered Saturday night appearing to have a significant advantage in the running game – and on both sides. The Tar Heels ranked 30th in rushing offense, and were averaging 210.6 rushing yards per game. Defensively, UNC ranked 14th in run defense, and it was allowing an average of 99.7 rushing yards per game. Duke, meanwhile, ranked 104th nationally in rushing offense, and 58th in rushing defense. But the Blue Devils running game dominated on Saturday, finishing with 234 yards. It was the first time Duke’s victory against Virginia on Nov. 6, 2010, that the Blue Devils amassed more than 200 yards rushing. UNC finished with 177 yards rushing but the offense didn’t seem to find a rhythm until the fourth quarter.


--UNC’s defeat snapped its eight-game winning streak against Duke. The Tar Heels have now won 21 of the past 23 games in the series dating to 1990.

--The Tar Heels lost at Wallace Wade Stadium for the first time since 1988.

--Red zone woes came back to haunt UNC. The Tar Heels ventured inside the Duke 20-yard line five times, but had to settle for field goals on their first three trips.

--Bernard surpassed the 2,000-yard career rushing mark.


For the second consecutive week, UNC will play a neighborhood rival. This time it’s N.C. State, which has defeated the Tar Heels in each of the past five games between the teams. The Wolfpack visits Kenan Stadium on Saturday in a game that will begin at 12:30 p.m.

- Andrew Carter


Anonymous said...

"But given Duke’s steady improvement under coach David Cutcliffe, there’s no reason why games like these can’t become the norm."

Ummmm...have you ever watched this series? It's always extremely close, with Duke usually coming up heartbreakingly short. Just like the Duke-Wake series.

Games like these are already the "norm", the only difference now is that Duke's on the rise and UNC's on the steep decline (with possibly more sanctions to come).