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X-Factor: DeWayne Carter, defense need to rally Duke football past North Carolina's powerful offense

DeWayne Carter tallied nine tackles against Georgia Tech.
DeWayne Carter tallied nine tackles against Georgia Tech.

Just as an immovable object meets an unstoppable force, Duke and North Carolina will face off once more, with the Victory Bell and another chapter in the rivalry on the line. Ahead of the Saturday night matchup at Wallace Wade Stadium, the Blue Zone analyzes a player from each end zone capable of leading their team to victory:

Duke: DeWayne Carter, DT

Duke’s defensive line is integral when considering North Carolina’s strong offensive attack. While the Tar Heels are last in the ACC in terms of scoring defense with a whopping 32.0 points scored against them per game, Duke has allowed an average of 19.7. Even though the Blue Devils rank 11th in the conference in total defense with 379.8 yards allowed per game, they still beat out the bottom-ranked Tar Heels by more than 85 yards each contest. 

Enter DeWayne Carter. The defensive tackle racked up nine tackles alongside linebacker Cam Dillon against Georgia Tech, marking a season-high and half of his 2022 total. On Saturday, he added one tackle for loss, his fourth of the season. Duke's captain will be a centerpiece of the effort to contain quarterback Drake Maye and quiet the North Carolina offense while the Blue Devils aim to roll offensively.

Less than a month ago, the redshirt junior returned a fumble for a touchdown against North Carolina A&T, a feat not achieved in the program since August Campbell’s 95-yard scoop and score against Boston College in November 2010. He added one forced fumble against Northwestern to the list just a week before, contributing to Duke’s 1.17 fumbles forced per game. 

North Carolina: Drake Maye, QB

Led by redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye, North Carolina leads the conference in both yardage and scoring, averaging 501.0 yards and 42.3 points, respectively. The Tar Heels have the Blue Devils beaten by nearly 10 points in scoring per game. 

Maye is the guy behind that magic. The now four-time ACC Rookie of the Week currently has a single-season passing efficiency rating of 185.1—the highest ever in the ACC despite only being halfway through the season. The quarterback also leads the ACC in passing yards per attempt, total yards and touchdown responsibility. After six games, he has thrown just three interceptions with a 69.4% completion rate. 

Despite North Carolina’s loss to Notre Dame, the Huntersville, N.C., native threw five touchdown passes, tying his predecessor Sam Howell’s freshman year record for the second time this season. Perhaps five is his lucky number, as the next week, he threw for three touchdowns and ran for two against Virginia Tech.

Yet, North Carolina’s offensive play is not without its imperfections. In each of the five games won by the Tar Heels, they gained at least 160 rushing yards, at a peak of 314 yards against Florida A&M. But in their sole loss against Notre Dame, they were limited to just 66 rushing yards, with 2.4 yards per rush. When North Carolina’s run game is faced with enough pushback, cracks develop in its armor. If Carter and the Blue Devils can focus on stopping the run, they can force the game in their favor despite the offensive capabilities of their opponent. That would allow them to take advantage of the Tar Heels’ comparatively weak defense. 


Audrey Wang | University News Editor

Audrey Wang is a Trinity sophomore and a university news editor of The Chronicle's 118th volume.

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