DURHAM — Every pair of rivals throws out the records when they play each other. When Carolina and Duke got together Saturday at Wallace Wade Stadium, they threw out the defense and special teams as well.
The Tar Heels and Blue Devils combined to score the sixth-highest number of points in series history, missed all three field goals they tried and scored 11 touchdowns in a wild 42-35 win by the Blue Devils.
It’s Duke’s third consecutive win over UNC, just the third time in series history the Blue Devils have kept the Victory Bell — awarded to the winner — for three years in a row.
The two teams came out swinging, with Carolina breaking off long runs and Duke airing it out with quarterback Daniel Jones. They combined to score touchdowns on the first four drives of the game and eight of the first 11.
UNC running back Michael Carter gained 122 yards in a first half that had observers checking the record book for offensive production, scoring on a 40-yard rush through the Duke defense. UNC also scored on a 13-yard run by receiver Anthony Ratliff-Williams and an 84-yard run by receiver Dazz Newsome, that was the sixth longest in school history and longest since 1993.
Duke, meanwhile, countered with a 52-yard touchdown pass from Daniel Jones to Chris Taylor and a 61-yard run by Jones — the longest in the quarterback’s career.
“Those are fun games,” Jones said. “The play by Chris (Taylor), it was a heck of a play by him to get free and get behind them. As an offense, you really relish those opportunities. The ball is in your hands as an offense, it’s up to you to put the points up.”
In the first half, Duke and Carolina combined for 26 plays of 10 or more yards and eight that were longer than Duke punter Austin Parker’s 25-yard second-quarter boot.
Holding a 35-28 lead at the half, Duke coach David Cutcliffe decided the defense needed some attention.
“We knew what they was trying to do (on offense),” Cutcliffe said. “We did a good job of blending more in the second half. We definitely tackled better and had better effort. I don’t know whether we were in shock or were on our heels at the start of the game, but it didn’t look like our defense. I told our coaches at halftime that we had to attack the turnover and tackle. Tackle fiercely. If we tackle better, we will have better results. And we did tackle better.”
After gaining 370 yards in the first half, UNC managed less than half of that — 166 — and saw their average gain per play drop from 9.33 yards to 3.95.
“They came out with a great plan and hats off to them,” said Duke linebacker Ben Humphreys. “They battled every possession. We adjusted at halftime. It wasn’t really a scheme thing. It was effort and we needed to do our own jobs. And I think that we did a great job of that in the second half. We came together, we stuck like glue.”
Duke forced punts on UNC’s first five drives of the second half, including four straight three-and-outs.
Duke’s offense also slowed down its pace from the frantic first half, although the Blue Devils added some breathing room when Jones broke his new career high from the first half, running 68 yards before being tackled just shy of the end zone, setting up a two-yard Quentin Harris run.
Jones finished the day with 361 yards on 31-of-54 passing, with three touchdown passes, to go with his 186 yards on the ground. He set a single-game Duke record for quarterback rushing yards, and his 547 yards of total offense was also a Duke record. He joined Tajh Boyd and Lamar Jackson as the only players in ACC history with multiple 300-yard passing/100-yard rushing games.
“Daniel has been building towards this,” Cutcliffe said. “His knowledge, accuracy. We all know he can run. He is a fast human being. Fast enough to be a track athlete if he chose to be. Daniel has grown into such a fierce competitor and he prepares like you’re supposed to prepare. He’s as knowledgeable as the coaches about what to do and what to expect and he makes everyone around him better. I don’t know if I’ve had any quarterback match the day he had today. I hate to do that to our people but there were so many dropped passes. He could’ve had 600 or more yards of offense had we been able to hang on to the ball but there were some good catches, let’s not forget that.”
The Blue Devils moved to 7-3 on the season and continue to build their resume for bowl games. Carolina, meanwhile, suffered yet another tough loss in a 1-8 year.
“We’re close,” coach Larry Fedora said. “That’s a good football team. We’re throwing a jump ball to tie the game up. They’re a good football team. Our guys continued to fight. There’s no question about that, who they are and what they’re made of. I’m proud of them for that fact. I hurt for our seniors. They will never have this opportunity again for the rest of their lives, and this will be a memory that sticks with them for the rest of their lives.”
They’ll have to settle for being a part of one of the wilder games in the long history of the rivalry.