Let’s be honest: following that disappointing loss to Virginia, it was hard to know what we were going to get from the Heels in today’s game against Duke. The good news is that we got everything that we could want and more, as they demolished the Blue Devils to retain the Victory Bell for another year.
Right out of the gate Sam Howell made a huge statement by marching the Heels down the field before getting stopped on third and goal. He then connected with Javonte Williams for a touchdown, and from there things only got worse for Duke. After stopping the Devils on their first offensive drive, Howell returned to the field and threw a 51-yard bomb to Emery Simmons before ran the ball in himself for the two-yard touchdown. From there, the Heels ran up the score to 28-0 before Eli Pancol was finally able to find the end zone for a Blue Devil touchdown.
For those who watched the game and thought that it would get more interesting from there, things couldn’t have been further from the truth. UNC continued to batter Duke’s outmatched defense and went into halftime with a 42-10 lead. From there UNC would proceed to outscore Duke 17-7 before pulling out the offensive starters and bringing in Jacoby Criswell to play quarterback. Duke scored a garbage time touchdown, and from there the game was basically over.
When looking at everything UNC did right in this game, one has to start with Javonte Williams. He was magnificent all day along and finished the game with 12 carries for 151 yards on the ground, 24 yards through the air, and four total touchdowns. He averaged a blistering 12.6 yards per carry, ripping apart Duke’s defense at every turn. Arguably his best play of the game was his 32-yard touchdown near the end of the second quarter. If you missed it, here it is:
Make that FOUR first-half TDs for Javonte Williams pic.twitter.com/sZBFtxDkGG— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) November 7, 2020
As you can see, Williams just about killed a man in Durham. His ability to break tackles this season has been incredible, and he continues to be one of the best running backs to do it in the country. It was good to see both Williams and Carter recover from what was a tough performance against Virginia last week, and hopefully we will only see more of this as the Heels finish the last leg of the regular season.
It was also refreshing to see UNC get to the quarterback as much as they did in this game. The Heels logged five sacks for the game, making sure Chase Brice didn’t know a moment’s peace. One noticeable difference in what the Heels managed to do was utilizing freshman CB Desmond Evans in the blitz packages, which resulted in him earning his first sack of the season. Considering the fact that Duke has been a pretty poor team this season, it’s hard to get terribly excited about what the defense was able to do, but it is still a much-needed step in the right direction.
If there are any nits to pick, it is the fact that this game was sloppy from a penalties perspective. UNC committed 6 penalties that hurt them for 80 yards, with the most painful one being on a sack on third and long in the second half. The Heels are going to have to find a way to clean up these penalties before they play Notre Dame and Miami at the end of the season, because continuing to do this against two of the best teams in the country would undoubtedly be costly.
Overall, it was a great day for at least one team in the Triangle. Carolina now gets to keep the Victory Bell in Chapel Hill, and Duke will likely spend the next couple of weeks doing some soul-searching before taking on Wake Forest on the 21st. Before Wake gets a crack at Duke, however, they will have to take on the Heels next weekend.