On this night, seniors at the University of North Carolina rejoice. For the first time in their college careers, their Tar Heels defeated the rival Blue Devils, winning by a score of 20-17. With Duke's loss to North Carolina, its three-game winning streak against the Tar Heels was snapped, and Chapel Hill became the Victory Bell's new home. The Blue Zone gives three key takeaways, stats and looks forward for the Blue Devils:
Three Key Takeaways:
1. Let quarterbacks be quarterbacks
Duke’s final pass of the game was not pretty. In fact, it was atrocious. Calling a halfback pass at the two-yard line on first down of a need-to-win game with less than a minute remaining is a call that would look brilliant if it worked. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, it didn’t. The safer call would have been to let the quarterback, Quentin Harris, keep the ball or hand it off for a run play. That call most likely would not have ended in a pass directly to the opposition’s linebacker, who in this case was Chazz Surratt. Speaking of which, before he was the Tar Heels’ linebacker, guess what position Surratt played? That’s right—quarterback. I bet he’s happy that change was made right about now.
2. Improving the run defense must be a priority
Even in its losses, the Duke defense showed that it's capable of getting to opposing quarterbacks. If not a sack or tackle for loss, the defensive unit was accumulating pressures and hurries, often forcing quarterbacks into tough passes and runs. However, the run defense did not play at a level to match against North Carolina. The Tar Heels rushed for 205 yards, with their top three rushers all averaging above five yards per carry. On most drives, the North Carolina offense quickly built momentum using the run game and then strategically passed when the Blue Devil defense overcommitted to stopping the run. If the run defense can buckle down and keep runs contained, there will be little to worry about for Duke.
3. The Blue Devils are cooling down
In the past two games, the Blue Devils have scored a total of 31 points. They scored that many points in single games four times this season. In fact, they scored more than 31 points in just the first half against Georgia Tech. Recently, their box scores reflecting 40-point performances and higher have been replaced with box scores showing scores that begin with 1. Maybe it’s because the competition has been increasing as the weeks progress, but Duke’s offensive output has been slowing down and its weaknesses have been accentuated. Playing a mix of (currently) ranked Notre Dame and Wake Forest teams as well as struggling Syracuse and Miami teams will hopefully show the true strength of the Blue Devils just in time for bowl season (which has not been guaranteed just yet).
Three Key Stats:
1. Five sacks for North Carolina
Last week, the Duke offensive line made the midseason honor roll for the Joe Moore Award, which is given to the most outstanding offensive line in college football. Against North Carolina, the unit gave up five sacks, despite only allowing seven total in the seven games prior. With the addition of two freshmen, the offensive line was bound to struggle at some point. It certainly did tonight. But if the first half of the season is anything to go off of, the offensive unit is certainly capable of being effective. Over the coming weeks, the Blue Devils will look to learn from this game and show fans why they made the honor roll.
2. Two interceptions, one fumble lost for each team
The Victory Bell being turned over was the most poetic way to end this game. There were a total of six turnovers in the game, but it felt like more because both teams also fumbled the ball and recovered it themselves two other times. Sloppy plays were made by both sides, and the game was personified by chaos. Don’t expect either team to be happy with tonight’s performance, regardless of the outcome.
3. Four catches, four first downs for Jake Bobo
Every catch Jake Bobo made tonight was for a first down. The sophomore receiver made key plays, including multiple tough sideline catches. Oddly enough, all four receptions were made in the first half. Although the receiver did see the field after halftime, he never made a reception. It would be interesting to see how the outcome of the game would have changed had Duke kept feeding the ball to the hot hand.
Bonus stat: From my point of view, Duke lost twice today. The first loss came just before the game even started, when Duke lost the opening coin toss. This broke a seven-game coin toss winning streak.
The Blue Devils will head back to Durham for their second bye week of the season. They will resume play on November 9, when powerhouse Notre Dame comes to town. The time for the game has yet to be determined.
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