No. 24 UNC survives 2OT thriller to beat rival Duke 47-45 in home finale
Sun, Nov 12, 2023
NCAAF News (AP)
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) - No. 24 North Carolina stopped Duke's 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game in the second overtime, sending the Tar Heels to a 47-45 win against the rival Blue Devils in a thriller Saturday night.
Duke's Grayson Loftis couldn't connect with Jalon Calhoun in the back of the end zone, capping a game that had seen the teams combine for 39 fourth-quarter points before pushing into extra periods that ended with UNC fans running onto the field to celebrate in their home finale.
Star quarterback Drake Maye provided the winning margin for the Tar Heels (8-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), running around the right side and spinning through hits near the goal line to extend the ball for a 5-yard keeper.
Then he made a play on the fly for the conversion, breaking off a keeper attempt as Duke's defense converged and flipping the ball ahead to John Copenhaver in the end zone for the 47-39 lead.
Loftis got the Blue Devils (6-4, 3-3) to answer by finding Jordan Moore over the middle for a 6-yard score, only to fall short on the tying conversion.
That sent UNC fans spilling onto the field to celebrate a fifth straight win against the Blue Devils, allowing the Tar Heels to keep the Victory Bell presented to the rivalry winner for another year.
Omarion Hampton powered the Tar Heels' offense all night, running for 169 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 31 carries. Maye threw for 342 yards and a touchdown to go with two rushing scores in what coach Mack Brown has said is likely his last home game as a high NFL prospect, though Maye hasn't committed to a decision yet.
UNC also got a huge game from receiver Devontez "Tez" Walker, who had seven catches for a career-high 162 yards. The Tar Heels finished with a 537-379 edge in total offense.
UNC had special-teams struggles, including a muffed kickoff return pinning UNC at its own 1-yard line before Maye threw his only interception to set up a Duke TD. The Blue Devils also recovered an onside kick while running off 15 straight points to erase a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
But there was at least one bright spot there for UNC: Noah Burnette kicked six field goals to tie a program record, including a 43-yarder on the final play of regulation that sent the game into overtime at 36-all.
Loftis threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns as he continued leading Duke's attack with starter Riley Leonard sidelined by a lower-body injury. Moore had all three of those scoring catches, including a fourth-down 30-yard grab from Loftis that pushed Duke to a 36-33 lead with 41 seconds left in regulation.
Jordan Waters also ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns for Duke.
Duke: The Blue Devils have been grinding through injuries at key positions and among some of their top pro prospects, notably with Leonard out with a lower-body injury. And they found themselves struggling to match UNC's offensive production, though they capitalized on their opportunities and the Tar Heels' mistakes - then pounced in the fourth to nearly end their losing streak in the rivalry. But it ended up being a second straight heartbreaking loss in the rivalry, with UNC winning on a final-seconds touchdown pass last year.
UNC: The Tar Heels stood at No. 10 in the AP Top 25 during a 6-0 start before blowing double-digit leads after halftime in losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. They did it again here, but still managed to land the last punches in a rivalry throwdown that had them spilling onto the field to celebrate after Loftis' last miss.
UNC could see a bump when the next AP Top 25 is released Sunday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Virginia next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels head to Clemson next Saturday.
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