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UNC vs. Duke: Three Things Learned

If you have a weak heart, then maybe Carolina isn’t the team for you.

North Carolina v Duke Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

You’ll take wins over losses, obviously, but good grief! The Tar Heels have got to find a way to keep their foot on opponents’ necks and put games out of reach before I clutch my chest and crash through the coffee table to meet my maker. I don’t want to die before we beat NC State on Black Friday (although their running quarterback could be a huge problem for the Heels).

Tanya went over the particulars on how UNC beat Duke last night. Let’s dive into three things learned.

Death by air or death by ground

Two weeks in a row now, ACC quarterbacks have had HUGE games against Carolina.

First, Miami’s Tyler Van Dyke went from benched against Middle Tennessee to throwing for 496 yards and three touchdowns.

Next, Duke’s Riley Leonard carved up the Tar Heel defense for 245 yards passing with a touchdown, and 130 yards rushing and this touchdown:

Guys, that was on a 2nd & 24. That is not going to be good enough if Carolina wants to take this program to the next level. Running quarterbacks were kryptonite to Jay Bateman’s defenses. Surely they can’t be in a “bend-don’t-break / keep everything in front” defense? Right?

I’m sorry that Devin Leary got hurt, but now that Jack Chambers is going to be skipping and sailing passes at Kenan on November 25th, we can’t have him running for 200 yards and beating Carolina in back-to-back seasons. Defense needs to tighten up!

Offensive depth shines

Thank goodness Josh Downs and Antoine Green returned from their respective injuries in time for ACC play. They are both game breakers, Downs for his shiftiness and YAC-ability, and Green for his straight line speed that takes the top off the defense.

But it’s nice that during the non-conference schedule, some of Carolina’s younger receivers got valuable reps in. J.J. Jones had a huge first down on a 25-yard catch on a 3rd & 7 in the second quarter. Kobe Paysour caught two straight passes in the fourth quarter, the second leading to a first down.

But most notable was reserve running back Elijah Green, who shook off the cobwebs and rushed for two touchdowns when Carolina needed them the most. His scores came on consecutive drives and in different ways: first on a goal-line drive, and the second on a 20-yard scamper up the middle.

I did not mention Elijah Green when I looked ahead to next year’s running back room. Perhaps I was a bit premature?

Nothing can come easy

Mack Brown is no doubt pleased to be 6-1 and top of the Coastal Division. He’s probably not thrilled to have two coordinators that are trying to make his heart explode. Phil Longo and Gene Chizik must look in the mirror before each game and say:

Ignoring the wins over Florida A&M and Virginia Tech, all of Carolina’s victories have come with a fresh batch of white hair on the heads of Tar Heel fans. Miami and Duke both required tipped-pass interceptions in the closing seconds to finish out. Both games could have been settled earlier if it weren’t for lapses or bad judgment.

The latest incident: Phil Longo’s gadget play in the third quarter when the Heels were up 31-21, after trailing at the half by four. After Elijah Green scored his second touchdown to put UNC up 10, the defense forced a Duke punt after five plays. Momentum was firmly behind the right shade of blue.

Instead of grabbing chunks of yardage like they had done in the previous two drives, Longo dialed up a double-flea flicker that missed Kamari Morales in the end zone. Maye was sacked on the next play for a seven-yard loss, and Burnette missed the ensuing 52-yard field goal attempt.

I can appreciate wanting to go for the kill shot. But Duke had not stopped UNC’s flow in the second half yet. There was no need. On another day against a better opponent, these types of shenanigans could cost Carolina a winnable game.