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October 20, 2012

Duke runs by Heels

DURHAM -- Duke performed no magic in its 33-30 victory against Carolina on Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium.

The Blue Devils simply whipped the Tar Heels on the line of scrimmage and worked their way out from there.

"Duke outplayed us," UNC coach Larry Fedora said. "They out-executed us in every phase of the game. We didn't stop the run, nor did we stop the pass."

Duke ran 53 times for a staggering 234 yards. The Blue Devils (6-2, 3-1 in the ACC) also shredded the Tar Heels' (5-3, 2-2) defense on third downs. They converted 50 percent (9-18) of their third-down opportunities.

The Blue Devils made a string of big plays during the 14-play, 87-yard touchdown drive to win the game. Duke quarterback Sean Renfree finished it with a 2-yard pass to Jamison Crowder to score the winning TD with 13 seconds remaining.

The Blue Devils' offensive line manhandled the Tar Heels' front seven all night.

"Well, 234 yards rushing, it started right there," Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. "The backs were great themselves. We hadn't seen that with us against any ACC opponent to this point.

"I think we can build on this, but we certainly hadn't been able to do that to North Carolina. We know that we've closed the gap from a talent standpoint."

The final drive proved just how well Duke's offense performed and how it could make big plays against UNC whenever it needed one.

"We just didn't play good, and they capitalized," senior linebacker Kevin Reddick said. "We, as a defense, didn't stop the run or stop the pass. We tried to make adjustments throughout the game."

UNC got its offense going in the final quarter, scoring three touchdowns. The last Carolina TD came on a crazy play that saw Erik Highsmith catch a pass and race to the Duke 24-yard line before being tackled.

A Duke defender jarred the ball loose and it squirted ahead. For a brief moment it appeared another Duke player would recover the ball, but then Carolina running back Giovani Bernard came running down the sideline. He scooped the ball up and ran it in for a touchdown with 2:53 seconds left.

Carolina appeared to have the game in hand -- finally. The last touchdown had been made possible by a defensive stand on fourth down by the Tar Heel defense, invigorating the UNC sideline.

Then when the offense responded by scoring another TD, it seemed the defense could hold Duke from going the length of the field and scoring a touchdown.

The Tar Heels' four-point lead at the time (30-26) meant the Blue Devils would have to score a touchdown to win the game.

The Blue Devils responded by converting a third down from its own 18, another third down from its 49, this time a third-and-8. When the Blue Devils reached the Carolina 19, they had to convert on a third-and-6. They did it.

On fourth-and-2 from the 2, quarterback Renfree hit Crowder with the winning score.

"It looked like to me they did whatever they wanted, offensively, defensively and on special teams," Fedora said.

Renfree completed 23 of 36 passes for 276 yards and the winning TD.

"Jamison Crowder, Sean [Renfree] said 'I trusted him; I knew it was tight,'" Cutcliffe said. "But Jamison Crowder doesn't have good hands; he has great hands. For him to hold onto that ball was great. I don't think anyone could have pried it loose from him. It was just a well-executed play."

This was a particularly tough game for the Carolina seniors. They saw Duke take control of the victory bell after losing to the Blue Devils for the first time in their careers.

"They did an awesome job today, trying to run on us," Reddick said. "We didn't make the right fits as a defense.

"Somebody had to be there on the backside because that is what they did: cut it back on us a lot. We practiced all week being on the front side, and they cut it back."


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