UNC Football: Tar Heels vs Duke Game Review


The biggest rivalry in college sports squared off in Durham tonight as the North Carolina Tar Heels took on the Duke Blue Devils.  These two basketball schools are having very good seasons on the gridiron, both at 5-2, something had to give.  Most critics picked the Tar Heels offense to overwhelm the Blue Devils defense and win the game in a high scoring affair.

Oct 20, 2012; Durham, NC, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard (26) drives past Duke Blue Devils safety Walt Canty (4) during the first half at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark Dolejs-US PRESSWIRE

The game did not go as expected in the first half.  Duke came out fired up, capitalizing on every UNC mistake.  After the Tar Heels opened up with a nine play 65 yard drive that ended in a Casey Barth 30 yard field goal to put the Tar Heels up 3-0, it was all Duke.  The surprising thing was how well Duke ran the ball on Carolina, using three different backs they racked up over 100 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the first half.

Giovani Bernard looked great in the first half and the Heels survived a scare when he went down with an injury in the second quarter.  UNC found themselves down 20-6 late in the 2nd quarter, without a Tre Boston interception early in the quarter, they could’ve found themselves down by more.

Bryn Renner did not have a good first half going just 8/13 for 28 yards.  Marquis Williams was inserted for one play and completed a 39 yard pass to Bernard for the biggest gain of the first half for the Tar Heels.  Bernard led the team with 123 yards of total offense in the first half, his 42 receiving yards were by far the most with Erik Highsmith next in line with just eight.

Score at the half: UNC 6 Duke 20

The second half started with a nice defensive effort forcing a Duke punt.  On the ensuing possession, Carolina lined up for a 52 yard FG but a fake punt and a first down run by the punter/holder kept the drive alive.  Head coach Larry Fedora rolled the dice on a gutsy call that turned out successful. After holding the Heels out of the endzone again, UNC hit another FG this time from 28 yards out, taking the score to 20-9 Blue Devils.

Duke responded by marching the ball down the field, converting on two different third and long plays driving the ball to the Heels three yard line.  UNCs redzone defense held and kept Duke out of the endzone forcing a FG, the score Duke 23, UNC 9.   Duke tried their own fake on a punt after failing to convert a third down, UNC came up with a big stop and got the ball in Blue Devil territory at the start of the 4th quarter.

Through three quarters, Marquis Williams was still the leading passer for Carolina with 39 passing yards versus Renners 36.  Duke forced a 4th and six and Fedora went for it at the Blue Devils 45 yards line and converted a huge passing play for 34 yards to tight end Eric Ebron to the 10 yard line.

Bernard punched in a TD run from two yards out, suddenly in an ugly game UNC found themselves down just seven with the score Duke 23, UNC 16.  Kyle Vernon caught a huge 18 yard pass on 3rd and 5 on the ensuing possession.  Sean Renfree was leveled trying to scramble for the first down on 3rd and 6 coming up one yard short setting up a 43 yard FG attempt that was nailed for a ten point Blue Devil lead.

The Tar Heels faced a ten point deficient with 9:22 remaining.  After big gains by Bernard and Ebron took the Heels into Duke territory, UNC had to go for it on 4th and short again with Renner sneaking it up the middle for his second successful sneak of the game.  Renner found Sean Tapley on a five yard slant to pull within three.

With the score Duke 26, UNC 23 with 6:28 to go the Tar Heel defense needed a stop.  On third and four, Kevin Reddick nearly came up with an interception that would have given him a clear path to the endzone, instead Duke was forced to punt, a booming kick forced a fair catch by Bernard inside their own 10 yard line.

Renner completed a huge 10 yard pass to Tapley on 3rd and 4 to keep the drive alive.  A huge second down pass play to Highsmith was fumbled in Blue Devil territory and just as the air was sucked out of the Tar Heels hopes, Bernard scooped up the loose ball and took it in for the TD.  After the extra point UNC held a four point lead 30-26.

Vernon came up big with a 29 yard gain into UNC territory keeping the Blue Devils hopes alive.  After holding Duke to two yards on the next two plays, Vernon came up big again with another first down reception.  Duke was in a nice offensive rhythm at the Heels 25 yard line with 1:30 to play.  Duke gained another first down on a swing pass to Duncan putting the ball at the UNC 15 yard line with 43 seconds left to play.

UNC stuffed Duncan on a 3rd and 4 rushing attempt with 24 seconds to play setting up a 4th down and the most important play of the game.  Duke got plenty of time on the 4th down play and converted a huge TD pass to Jamison Crowder for the score putting them up three with just 13 seconds to play.

Final Score: UNC 30 Duke 33