Wow. What a game.
That’s all I could manage to say last night after watching Drake Maye lead a 2-minute drive, down 31-35, that culminated in a 8-yard TD pass to Antoine Green with 16 seconds on the clock, and Will Hardy’s interception that secured the win for the Heels.
It seems as if every UNC football game has extreme highs and extreme lows, leaving the program’s fans uncertain of what the outcome of the game will actually result in.
And they won’t believe a win until the clock hits 0:00, thats for sure.
People love to hate on and pick apart the Tar Heels’ defense, but in reality they have stepped up in crunch time when it truly matters.
Plus, a win is a win.
The UNC defense struggled against the run severely in the first half, each of the Blue Devils’ scores were rushing touchdowns, including a 75-yd Riley Leonard TD run.
Down 17-21 at halftime, the Heels came out of the locker blazing, forcing a Blue Devils’ three-and-out, which was followed by a 38-yd jaw-dropping catch made by Josh Downs, that set up a 1-yd Elijah Green TD run for the score to put them up by 3.
The Heels continued to roll, forcing another Duke punt and found the end zone again after Elijah Green made a group of Duke defenders miss on a 20-yd TD run that put them up 31-21.
The UNC defense had found their confidence, forcing a turnover on downs after stuffing Duke runningback Jordan Waters on back-to-back plays.
But like every North Carolina game, nothing is ever easy.
The Heels attempted a messy trick play on their next offensive drive, and if they would’ve scored a touchdown it would’ve put them up by 17. But instead, Noah Burnette ended up missing a 51-yd field goal.
The Blue Devils found life in the second half.
I know momentum is not a truly concrete concept, but it definitely was in play at this point in the game.
On back-to-back drives, the Duke offense scored TDs to lead 35-31, while their defense forced a punt and a fumble, respectively after those drives.
Two controversial fumble recovery calls gave Duke chances throughout the game, where many believed Drake Maye’s arm was in a forward pass motion, but the officials called it otherwise.
When the Blue Devils got the ball back after the fumble and were about to score, it looked almost hopeless of the Heels.
Key word: almost.
Two Duke penalties on consecutive plays, and even one that called back a Jordan Waters TD, resulted in Charles Ham missing a 43-yd field goal that would’ve extended the Blue Devils’ lead to a touchdown.
Carolina offense back on the field. 2:09 on the clock.
They left too much time on the clock.
Keeping his composure, Drake Maye lead the Carolina offense 50 yards down the field, and a toe-tapping NFL caliber Antoine Green TD catch put the Heels up by 3.
With 0:16 left, the Blue Devils looked to put together a game tying or winning drive, but a tipped ball by Noah Taylor resulted in a Will Hardy interception to win the game for the Tar Heels.
Although it wasn’t pretty, the Tar Heels are now 4-0 on the road, in comparison to last years 0-5, 3-0 in the ACC, and 6-1 overall.
Next week, the Tar Heels have a much needed bye-week before they take on Pitt at home in a Week 9 ACC matchup.
Enjoy your victory Sunday, and Go Heels!