Man, that one was way too close. For the second time this season the Tar Heels needed two overtimes to beat an overmatched opponent, though unlike their Appalachian State win, no one was really surprised that Duke gave the Tar Heels fits. On defense, Duke was was one of the best in the country at scoring, red zone, yards, and in general just keeping good teams down.
Still, for the third straight ACC game, the Tar Heels were a double-digit favorite, for the third straight ACC game the Tar Heels managed to get a double-digit lead, and for the third straight ACC game the Tar Heels surrender that lead in the fourth quarter. Unlike the last two games, though, the Tar Heels scrapped together a fourth quarter drive to tie it and somehow held on in overtime. It’s a win, and it’s Carolina’s fifth straight win over the Blue Devils. Unlike the first time Brown was at Carolina, that’s something to brag about — just look no further than who Duke has beaten.
With that, here are three things we learned.
Drake Maye Went Out With a Bang
He had one horrible interception, and had a couple of decisions that make you want to scratch your head, but other than that Drake Maye played as advertised. Maye went 28-43, 342 yards, one passing touchdown. He also scored two touchdowns on the ground — the first of the game and the last for UNC. Even when the Tar Heels surrendered the lead late in the fourth quarter there seemed to be little worry that the Tar Heels had a chance to at least get to overtime. Sure enough Maye just methodically got them down the field.
While Maye didn’t take part in the Senior Day ceremonies, if you think there’s any chance at all he comes back to Chapel Hill you might as well put them to rest now. Tim Hasselbeck was already pumping up Drake Maye on The Dan Patrick Show early this week and with this there will be a real debate about which quarterback will go first. You just don’t pass that up. No matter how the rest of the season goes at least Maye went out of Kenan that way.
Tez Walker and Omarion Hampton are Special Talents
On a night when UNC hosted the most NFL scouts ever in a game, Hampton had a hard-earned 169 yards and one touchdown against one of the better defenses in the country. He should have had a lot more, especially in the red zone when it seemed like he was forgotten about until the very end. On the last touchdown drive in regulation and the last overtime touchdown, Hampton just trucked the Duke defense. He’s having a special season, and he put up a good show for the scouts.
Meanwhile, Tez Walker did what they brought him in for — catching deep balls. He easily won versus Duke’s defensive backs, and it seemed like the only thing that kept his numbers down were some under thrown passes until the last deep pass to him late in the fourth quarter. He finished with seven catches and 162 yards, and there's no doubt the scouts in the press box saw the blazing speed Walker has on the field. One has to think this may have been his last game in Chapel Hill, too, and what a way to make an impact in such a short time.
Carolina Wins Despite the Coaching
Offense, defense, and special teams. All had some really tough moments.
The best unit was, obviously, the offense, but despite putting up 47 points, that number is inflated with 15 points from the two overtimes, and frankly to only put up 36 points with how dominant the Tar Heels were on offense was staggering. The decision-making in the red zone for the majority of the game was just inexcusable, and had Chip Lindsey just gone to Omarion Hampton earlier there’s a pretty good chance Carolina turns a couple of the field goals to touchdowns and it never needs to go to OT. Still, they put up 47, so in the end — they made winning plays.
The defense, though, did not. The Tar Heels couldn’t make three stops in a row, allowing Duke to drive down the field and stay within reach. The biggest sin, though, was the fourth down call while leading 33-29. Mack Brown calls a timeout before 4th and 7 at the UNC 30, and 46 seconds left. Duke has to score a touchdown, so even if you can’t stop them on fourth down they will have to take time to get closer to the end zone. All you have to do is protect the sticks, and make it to where a third-string quarterback has to take time to make a read. Instead, Gene Chizik sent the house creating one-on-one coverage, which made it an easy read for Grayson Loftis. He just hoisted it to a wide open Jordan Moore, and without any sort of safety help, Moore easily walked in. A coach with that much experience shouldn’t be making such a bad call, and luckily the offense bailed him out.
Meanwhile, Larry Porter needs to give up special teams. Today. As said before, it’s clear the work he does with the running backs is worth keeping him in that role but special teams almost cost Carolina this game. Pick your poison — you had the absolute brain cramp by Tychaun Chapman on the kickoff to not advance the ball he let drop to the ground and start a drive at the one. That’s coaching, if he doesn’t understand that he doesn’t need to be on the field catching a kickoff. That played a big role in the Drake Maye Interception as he felt pressure to get the team out of horrid field position — he likely isn’t throwing that ball if they are starting at the 25. Later, Carolina was ill-equipped to handle a fake punt after nearly getting a fumble recovery that was overturned on replay. Luckily the defense did respond on that one. Finally, after Duke had already pulled out tricks and made it pretty clear they would do anything to win, the Tar Heels were ill-equipped to recover a “surprise” onside kick that just about everyone in the stadium saw coming, and Duke of course ended up scoring off it.
Chip Lindsey has shown enough to show he can improve, but Chizik and Porter have had more than enough time to show their true colors on that side of the ball. Once the season is done, it’s time for a change.