Sitting 1-1 in the ACC, Duke next returns home to face historic rival North Carolina. The Blue Zone takes a look at how the Tar Heels fare ahead of Saturday's high-stakes matchup:
Duke suffered its first ACC loss of the season in Atlanta, falling in overtime 23-20 to Georgia Tech. Despite the loss, the Blue Devils showed immense resilience, a focal point of head coach Mike Elko's team, which has led to increased success. After being down by 14 points in the fourth quarter, Duke fought its way back and forced overtime.
Quarterback Jeff Sims led the Yellow Jackets to victory, throwing for 227 yards and rushing for over 100. Next up for Duke is rival North Carolina, which has quite a capable quarterback of its own. The 5-1 Tar Heels—led by redshirt freshman Drake Maye—sit atop the ACC Coastal. The Maye family is one the Blue Devil faithful may regretfully remember, as Luke Maye was a stout power forward for the Tar Heels’ basketball team from 2015-2019. Duke will have to watch out for his younger brother Drake, who has put up enormous numbers through the first half of the season. Maye leads the ACC in passing yards per game, averaging over 317. Watch Maye throw a strike downfield against Miami to deep-play threat Antoine Green in the following clip.
Although Maye excels as a passer, he is dangerous with his feet, averaging over 50 rushing yards per game. His build and running style is akin to Duke’s Riley Leonard, with a lethal combination of long strides and elusiveness. In the below clip, here he is breaking out for a long run, juking defenders along the way.
On the other side of the ball, there will be opportunities for Leonard to torch the Tar Heel secondary. North Carolina’s defense has been woeful, ranking at the bottom of the league in total defense. Last week against Miami, the unit gave up an absurd 496 passing yards, a theme throughout this season. Watch this busted coverage by the Tar Heels in their loss against Notre Dame.
Despite the yards given up, North Carolina remarkably held Miami to just 24 points. Expect Duke to focus on red zone conversions and maintaining a balanced offensive attack. Although the Blue Devils are coming off of one of their poorer offensive performances against Georgia Tech, they are more than capable of moving the ball down the field. Check out this drive by Duke against Virginia, exemplifying its offensive balance.
The upcoming game at Wallace Wade Stadium has a similar feel to the Sept. 24 game against Kansas for Duke, with two capable offenses going head-to-head. The defense that can step up and make big plays will likely be the one ringing the Victory Bell Saturday.
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Ranjan Jindal is a Trinity first-year and an assistant Blue Zone editor of The Chronicle's 119th volume.