Give it up for the defense.
This was shaping up to be just like one of the many low-scoring affairs of the Butch Davis era, where UNC could manage the occasional drive but never get more than field goals from them, and the opposing team hung in there just long enough to get a late score to seal it. Admit it, you were waiting for Cutcliffe to find some hole in the defense, for there to be a momentary lapse to cost the Heels the game. It was Maryland or Virginia last year, all over again.
But the lapse never came, and the hole never revealed itself. Instead, the defense held them to 43 yards in the second half (just slightly more than the 35 UNC gave the Blue Devils in penalties) and never let the Duke offense across the fifty. And the only time Duke did sniff the end zone, on a series that began with an interception on the Heels' 37, the defense snatched the ball right back in three plays with an interception of their own. The Blue Devils never had the opportunity to get a series going until late in the fourth, by which time Carolina had already put the game away.
And they did so primarily on the back of Ryan Houston, who with Draughn out with an injury on his first play had the most carries for his career, and did the most with them, grinding out 164 yards in 37 attempts, including carries on 10 of the 12 plays of UNC's only touchdown drive to go up 10 in the fourth. T.J. Yates added 119 yard through the air, surpssing 5,000 for his career and moving to second on UNC's career passing totals. Which, by the way, says something about how late the Heels came around to the idea of the forward pass. But this was the defense's day, with Deunta Williams and Charles Brown both grabbing interceptions and most of the team contributing to UNC's eight tackles for losses and three sacks; they pushed the Blue Devils back a full length of the football field over the course of the game.
The Coastal Division is rapidly coalescing into two levels of performance, with Georgia Tech, Virginia Tech, and Miami at one tier, and Virginia and Duke on the other. UNC remains in the middle, with a poor loss to UVa and a stellar win over Virginia Tech sending mixed messages. How they manage next week's final home game, against a Hurricane team that just handed the Cavaliers their worst loss in over a year, with bowl eligibility on the line. It's an interesting week ahead.