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Extra Point: Duke football struggles on both sides of the ball in loss to North Carolina

DeWayne Carter (center) led the Blue Devils with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss.
DeWayne Carter (center) led the Blue Devils with 1.5 sacks and two tackles for loss.

The Victory Bell rang in Chapel Hill for the third consecutive year as Duke fell to North Carolina 38-7. With three key takeaways, stats and a look ahead, the Blue Zone breaks down everything you need to know about the Blue Devils' loss to their biggest rival:

Three key takeaways:

1. Pass coverage issues

North Carolina quarterback and Heisman hopeful Sam Howell threw for an impressive 321 yards and three touchdowns. Duke’s secondary had trouble keeping up with the speedy wide receivers as two of Howell’s touchdowns were for at least 60 yards: Ty Chandler for 75 in the first quarter and Josh Downs for 63 in the fourth. The Tar Heels’ ability to stretch the Duke defense combined with Howell’s quickness in the pocket allowed North Carolina to dominate the passing game. 

2. Quiet second half for Mataeo Durant

Duke’s senior running back Mataeo Durant rushed for a stunning 94 yards in the first half with 37 yards on his first rush alone. Unfortunately, the North Carolina defensive line figured out Durant’s mojo and limited him to 20 yards in the second half. This was problematic for the Blue Devils, as their offense is reliant on their rushing game. The other rushers didn’t perform to their potential either, as sophomore running back Jordan Waters had six carries for 19 yards and graduate quarterback Gunnar Holmberg had 10 carries for six yards lost.

3. Admirable backfield pressure

Even though the Tar Heels were able to put 38 points on the board, it’s important to note the aggressiveness of Duke’s defensive line. The Blue Devils racked up five sacks and 10 tackles for loss. A lot of that credit should be handed to sophomore defensive tackle DeWayne Carter, who energized the defense with 1.5 sacks in the first quarter. This is a great result given Sam Howell’s elusiveness and talent while making plays. This drive to disrupt the quarterback will be very helpful in Duke’s difficult matchups on deck.

Three key stats:

1. 80-yard touchdown

Duke was trailing by 24 at the end of the first half, so it needed a spark going into the second to stay in the game. The Blue Devils seemed to get one, as Holmberg threw an 80-yard touchdown pass to junior receiver Jalon Calhoun on the first play of the second half and briefly flipped the momentum in their favor. Calhoun accounted for 103 of Duke’s 184 passing yards with six receptions. The junior is heating up, as he had five receptions for 67 yards and a touchdown last week against Kansas.

2. 13% third down efficiency

Duke and Holmberg didn’t have a sufficient amount of continuity on the offensive side of the ball. Out of their 15 third down opportunities, the Blue Devils only successfully converted on 2 of those. In order to beat a team like North Carolina, you need to have time-consuming drives and keep your offense on the field. This gave the Tar Heels more chances where they were able to convert 9 out of their 17 third downs. 

3. Two turnovers

Another thing a team has to do in order to beat the Tar Heels is minimize turnovers. Duke had two turnovers: a fumble by Holmberg in the beginning of the second quarter, which led to a ‘scoop and score’, and an interception in the beginning of the third. Turnovers have the ability to influence everyone’s emotions, and that concept prevailed against North Carolina. The interception occurred just three minutes after the momentum-shifting touchdown pass by Calhoun, which seemed to clear the wind out of the Blue Devils’ sails.

Looking forward:

Duke will host Georgia Tech next weekend in what should be a very intriguing matchup. The two teams seem to be evenly matched according to their records, but Georgia Tech seems to be a dark horse: they only lost 14-8 to Clemson and they dominated North Carolina 45-22. The starting quarterback position for the Yellowjackets isn’t officially filled yet, but it seems like freshman Jeff Sims is the guy. Sims is a dual-threat quarterback, which means that Duke will need to continue being aggressive in their pass rushing. The Blue Devils will also need a big day out of Durant, and hopefully Calhoun will continue to shine. It could be a great opportunity for Duke to turn things around.

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