If I told you that all of Kenan Stadium would be storming the field after tonight’s UNC vs. Duke matchup, would you believe me? No, right? I’m not sure I would’ve believed myself, but I guess here we are. I am not sure how to even begin in summing this one up. But man, that was a rollercoaster ride.
Somehow, someway, North Carolina took down the Duke Blue Devils in a 47-45 double overtime thriller. The Victory Bell will stay in Chapel Hill and the Heels are (8-2).
How we got there, though, was not in typical North Carolina shootout fashion, other than the score. The Tar Heels jumped out to a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, but Duke found their rhythm in the second quarter, scoring two touchdowns to take the lead after a bad fair catch on the one-yard line and a Drake Maye pick on the next play.
The story of the first half was the right leg of Noah Burnette, netting three field goals (one at the end of the second quarter). Flipping the narrative, though, was the fact that Chip Lindsey could not find the end zone in three out of four red zone trips. It was 16-14 Heels at the break.
Once again, Carolina came out of halftime and looked like they had figured it out. A ten point third quarter set the Heels up with their second double-digit lead of the night, and things felt comfortable heading into the fourth.
Well, I still haven’t learned. And clearly neither have the Tar Heels.
Duke took advantage of an inexcusable special teams effort from UNC by recovering an onside kick after a score, setting up another Blue Devil touchdown to take the lead before you could even blink. After controversial calls, horrendous defense, a Bryson Nesbit acrobatic catch, and once again, Noah Burnette at the buzzer, somehow it was all knotted up after regulation.
Offensively, Carolina was perfect in overtime. Two drives and two scores, which put the pressure on the defense to come up big. And they did, as they made a game-winning 2-pt conversion stop to take the Tar Heels home.
As exciting as this game was, it was more of a sigh of relief that somehow the Tar Heels escaped. From the red zone struggles, defensive lapses, play calling concerns, and special teams mistakes, it is hard to be super pumped about what you saw other than the final score.
The bright spots may be familiar, though, as Omarion Hampton ran 31 times for 169 yards and a score leading the Heels offensively most of the evening. Drake Maye was on par, per usual, tossing for 342 and totaling three touchdowns, including critical plays down the stretch.
On the flip side, it was the same movie all over again for many parts of this North Carolina football team. It took true hero ball and improbable efforts to keep UNC afloat in a game where they led by 12 in the fourth quarter. Duke moved the ball with ease using a third-string freshman quarterback for most of the ball game and there seemed to be once again, minimal adjustment.
There are two regular season games left in this storied installment of Carolina Football, and it may be time to accept the fact that they are what they are, and try to enjoy a miraculous win in what was likely Drake Maye’s last game in Kenan Stadium. It is hard to see past all of the flaws and mind boggling mistakes, but the Victory Bell is going to stay in Chapel Hill and Duke goes home with a big fat L. How can you not be happy about that?
I will stop myself there and let everyone process that dramatic finish on their own, but man, that was a fun game. Drake Maye is a magician, Omarion Hampton and Tez Walker are NFL caliber already, and Noah Burnette has ice in his veins.
Enjoy this one, Tar Heel nation, you have earned it.
UNC takes on Clemson next week in another key ACC matchup. Until then, take a deep breath and celebrate! Go Heels, everybody.