HALFTIME: Duke 10, North Carolina 10

Bitten by the big play bug once again, Duke enters the locker room without the lead after controlling play for most of the half.

A two-play, 80-yard North Carolina touchdown drive in the final 30 seconds of the first half tied the game at 10-10 through 30 minutes at Kenan Memorial Stadium. The Tar Heels have averaged just 1.3 yards per carry and have been sacked three times, but three big passing plays have kept them in the game.

After looking lost on offense in the early going, North Carolina quarterback Chazz Surratt burned the Blue Devil defense with a 47-yard flea flicker to Austin Proehl, giving the Tar Heels a golden red-zone opportunity to seize the momentum and put the first points on the board. 

But on third down from Duke’s 10-yard line, defensive lineman Mike Ramsey got to Surratt for his second sack of the game to force North Carolina to settle for a 34-yard field goal and help the Blue Devils seize the momentum. 

On its next drive after the big stop, Duke seized the momentum and needed just three plays to find the end zone, using a 38-yard rush from Brittain Brown and a 28-yard touchdown pass from Jones to Davis Koppenhaver to take a 7-3 lead. 

Duke’s offensive line struggled mightily with pass blocking in the early going, leaving Jones uncomfortable in the pocket and with a Tar Heel defender’s hand in his face on his first four dropbacks. But some adjustments by Cutcliffe to work quicker passes into Jones' repertoire helped matters, allowing Jones and Duke’s offense to break free. On their next drive, the Blue Devils drove 12 plays for 66 yards to nail a 27-yard field goal and take a 10-3 lead with 8:38 remaining in the second quarter. 

After another three-and-out, Duke missed an opportunity in the red zone, with Austin Parker getting a 24-yard field goal blocked, and North Carolina was not content to carry a seven-point deficit into the break. Surratt completed two deep play action passes to Anthony Ratliff-Williams to complete a 10-point swing in the half's final minute.

Duke’s rushing attack has continued to succeed, totaling 119 yards on 24 attempts to help buoy an offense that has been somewhat limited in the passing game by its offensive line play. Brown has been particularly explosive, gaining 75 yards on just six carries, while Wilson has totaled 36 yards on 12 carries, but Brown went to the locker room after a late injury.

Here are some observations from the first half: 

  • Proehl was injured after his big catch and appears to be out for the game, coming out of the locker room without his jersey on.
  • Tops in the nation in yards allowed heading into Saturday, Duke’s rushing defense has once again forced its opponent into a one-dimensional offense. 
  • North Carolina’s front seven came out strong against Jones, but has been unable to be as effective against Duke’s rushing attack. 
  • The Blue Devils have continued to play clean football, penalized just once for five yards. 

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