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UNC vs. Duke - Player of the Game: Chazz Surratt

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Surratt made the game’s biggest play as the Victory Bell returned to Chapel Hill.

NCAA Football: Duke at North Carolina Nell Redmond-USA TODAY Sports

A lot has been made of Chazz Surratt’s position change journey, but after yesterday, it’s come full circle.

In the Duke game in his freshman season, Surratt was UNC’s starting quarterback. With the Tar Heels down 20-17 with a little over six minutes left, he led a drive that got them into Blue Devil territory. He was then threw an interception, which was returned 61 yards the other way for a touchdown. There was still time left, but for all intents and purposes that was the game.

After missing last year’s meeting with an injury, Surratt’s second Victory Bell game came after he had moved to linebacker. This time, Duke had the ball down 20-17 and mounted a drive deep into Tar Heel territory. With the ball at the UNC two-yard line, it was time for redemption. Surratt was the hero this time around, snuffing out the Blue Devils’ trick play, and coming up with the game-sealing interception. This one wasn’t returned for a touchdown, but other than that the symmetry couldn’t be more perfect. His pick sealed the win, and sealed player of the game honors for him.

The interception is obviously the most notable thing he did, but Surratt was really good throughout the game. He had a sack in the third quarter, and also was credited with a quarterback hurry on UNC’s other interception, which was caught by Dominique Ross. He recorded 12 tackles in total, nine of which were solo efforts.

Other nominees include kicker Noah Ruggles. After getting benched ahead of this game, he was called upon after UNC’s first field goal attempt of the game was missed. Ruggles nailed both of his attempts, from 34 and 40 yards, while also making his lone PAT. Those two field goals accounted for the final six points of the game, helping the Tar Heels turn a 17-14 deficit into a 20-17 win.

Were it not for his final play of the game, this honor would in all likelihood have gone to Javonte Williams. The running back ran for 111 yards on 22 attempts. The 22nd of those came at the Duke three. He attempted to go over the top for the game-sealing touchdown, but the ball was knocked loose, allowing Duke to recover and mount the drive that led to Surratt’s interception. That was Williams’ only real misstep on the game, and had he scored, he would’ve had a near perfect POTG case.

Also of note was Ross, who, as mentioned, also had an interception, and Surratt’s fellow linebacker Jeremian Gemmel, who recorded nine tackles, including 1.5 sacks.

A player returning to the scene of a painful moment, and completely reversing the script and winning the game is the plot of many cheesy sports movies. However, we watched one in that final play on Saturday, and I give it two thumbs up.