Breaking down six key plays in Duke’s 27-25 victory against UNC:
Big block springs Ebron
• Score: North Carolina 0, Duke 0, about 9 minutes left in first quarter.
• Situation: UNC ball, 1st-and-10 at its 11.
• The play: Marquise Williams, in shotgun, had time to check down and find Eric Ebron on a crossing route. Ebron caught about a 20-yard pass and ran another 59 for his longest reception. Near midfield, Sean Tapley laid a key block to spring Ebron.
• Why it mattered: UNC moved effectively on the ground on its first drive before stalling in Duke territory. Williams missed throws on first and second down, and the Tar Heels missed a 42-yard field goal. Williams came back immediately on the second drive with this strike to set up his 1-yard touchdown run.
Early conversion leads to points
• Score: Duke 7, UNC 7, early second quarter.
• Situation: Duke ball, 3rd-and-7 at its 5.
• The play: Anthony Boone hit tight end Braxton Deaver on an underneath route for 8 yards and a first down.
• Why it mattered: A UNC punt had pinned Duke at its 2. Boone’s completion moved the chains, and they kept moving. The Blue Devils drove 95 yards on 17 plays, taking a 10-7 lead when Ross Martin kicked a 22-yard field goal. None of that happens, however, if Duke doesn’t convert at its 5. The drive was important for UNC as well. Duke had a first down at UNC’s 7 but couldn’t get in the end zone. It was the first time all season Duke failed to score a touchdown on a first-and-goal situation.
Fumbled punt keeps UNC in it
• Score: Duke 10, UNC 7, late second quarter.
• Situation: UNC punting from its 24.
• The play: Duke’s Jamison Crowder, who caught two touchdown passes, fumbled while trying to catch the punt in traffic. UNC recovered at the Duke 34.
• Why it mattered: Duke’s offense was wearing out UNC’s defense. It had scored just 10 points, but it was dominating time of possession. It had just gone 95 yards in 17 plays and was about to take over near midfield. Instead, UNC turned the turnover into 8 points when Williams ran in from 1 yard, and the Tar Heels made a two-point conversion.
Divine return from DeVon Edwards
• Score: UNC 15, Duke 10, 1:19 left in second quarter.
• Situation: UNC kicking off after going ahead.
• The play: DeVon Edwards fielded the kick at his 1 and ran 99 yards untouched for a go-ahead touchdown.
• Why it mattered: Duke had outplayed UNC but was trailing thanks to a critical turnover. Edwards erased that with his second kickoff return for a touchdown this season. Not only was he not touched, but also wasn’t really close to being touched. Three perfect blocks created an opening near the 20, and Edwards did the rest to put Duke ahead 17-15.
Brown’s INT leads to more points
• Score: Duke 17, UNC 15, 14:30 left in third quarter.
• Situation: UNC ball, 1st-and-10 at its 47.
• The play: Williams opened the second half with a 13-yard designed run. On the second play, he tried to hit Ebron on a crossing route. His throw was behind Ebron, who got a hand on it. Duke’s Kelby Brown caught the deflection.
• Why it mattered: Brown’s interception led to a Duke touchdown. Duke took over at midfield but quickly moved inside the Tar Heels’ 10 after Boone hit Deaver for 10 yards and Isaac Blakeney for 32 more. Boone finished the drive by scrambling to extend the drive and hitting Crowder in the back of the end zone for a 24-15 lead.
UNC drops the ball
• Score: UNC 25, Duke 24, about 6 minutes left in fourth quarter.
• Situation: Duke ball, 1st-and-10 at Duke 38.
• The play: Boone, under pressure, threw a pass that UNC’s Tre Boston wrapped his arms around but dropped. It was the third likely interception that UNC dropped, in addition to a touchdown pass that slipped through T.J. Logan’s hands.
• Why it mattered: Had Boston held on, UNC would have had the lead and the ball deep in Duke territory late in the game. Instead, Boone hit Jela Duncan for 29 yards on the next play as Duke drove to UNC’s 5 before settling for a go-ahead field goal with 2:22 left. Duke’s Edwards ended UNC’s final threat with an interception, sealing the Blue Devils’ first 10-win season and berth in the ACC championship game against Florida State.