Wow, who saw that coming?
After scraping by Pittsburgh on Saturday and facing a short week, UNC came out in an unusual style - defensive giant - to lay a 45-20 throttling on Duke that was nearly not as close as the score indicated. The Heels forced three Duke turnovers and put the ball in the end zone after all three to start the rout. Meanwhile the Carolina defense front completely snuffed out Duke's running game as the Blue Devil running backs only gained 61 yards. Duke only scored once in its first nine possessions, but did punch in two touchdowns long after the outcome was decided.
With the win, UNC regains the Victory Bell but more important is once again bowl eligible after a 2-4 start and being labeled one of the country's biggest disappointments. Carolina did not disappoint in a featured prime-time game with tons on the line for both teams, however.
With that in mind, here is this week's GBU Report:
UNC Defense: Plain and simple, this was a fantastic defensive effort, especially given UNC's futility on that side of the ball this year. Carolina forced three turnovers, scored a defensive touchdown, and held Duke to only 168 yards on its first nine possessions.
UNC running game: Carolina's offense works best when the running game is working, and it was clicking on all cylinders against Duke. T.J. Logan became the first person this season other than Marquise Williams to have a 100-yard rushing day with 116 yards, and Romar Morris added another 95 to go with Williams' 98. In all, Carolina banged out an eye-popping 315 yards on 57 attempts.
Marquise Williams: Just another day at the office for the junior quarterback, accounting for 374 yards (276 passing and 98 rushing) and four touchdowns (2 passing, 2 running). These numbers certainly help atone for the three turnovers Williams accounted for on some uncharacteristic bad decisions. Williams continues his climb up the record books as well, setting a single-season total offense record.
Thomas Moore: UNC's much-maligned senior kicker has wrested the job back from Nick Weiler and made the most of his opportunity with a season-long 30-yard field goal. By the way, it is a reflection of how poor UNC's place kicking has been that a single 30-yard field goal makes the "good" category but we take what we can get with this situation and celebrate the little accomplishments.
Coaching: You've got to give it up for Larry Fedora and his staff. They had the team ready for Duke and were one step ahead of David Cutcliffe and his staff all night long. Fedora has shown a propensity for having his teams play well in the second half of the season but the Xs and Os were on point this game as well.
Penalties: After 3-4 games of penalties being nominal, the penalty bug jumped back up as Carolina was whistled nine times for 84 yards. Fortunately none were back-breaking as has been the case in the past.
Turnovers: As well as Marquise Williams played, his three turnovers on consecutive possessions were downright ugly, more so because they came on bad decisions when he should have just taken a sack. All three fumbles were on the Duke side of the field, and two were in the red zone. While it was already 28-7 when the turnovers occurred, only UNC's unusually exceptional defense kept those from being game-changing.
With the win, Carolina picks up the double bonus of becoming bowl-eligible while denying Duke their second-straight Coastal Division title. Now UNC hosts NC State in the season finale in a game that is somewhat anti-climactic in that both the Heels and the Pack have likely secured bowl berths and so the only thing on the line (other than bragging rights) is possibly avoiding a trip to Shreveport over the holidays. Yet with a win over State, UNC will have matched last year's finish in winning 5 of its last 6 games. UNC in November is not an easy out.