UNC pummels Duke in rivalry game

The Tar Heels won the Victory Bell for the second straight year

rth Carolina players celebrate keeping the Victory Bell after their win over Duke in an NCAA college football game at Wallace Wade Stadium, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Durham, N.C. (Jim Dedmon/Pool Photo via AP)

The Battle of the Blues quickly turned into a massacre, as North Carolina posted a 56-24 win over Duke in Durham.

The win kept the Victory Bell in the Tar Heels’ possession for the second year in a row and was coach Mack Brown’s 10th-straight win over the Blue Devils as UNC head coach, dating back to his first stint in Chapel Hill.

The Tar Heels scored 21 points in the first quarter and never looked back, recording the fourth-highest point total in the history of the series.

Three thoughts

1. The tone was set on the game’s opening kickoff when Duke, often described by opposing coaches as “a smart, disciplined team,” picked up two penalties on a kick that wasn’t returned. Kicker Jack Driggers kicked the ball out of bounds, one of two kickoffs flagged for that on the day, which would have put the ball at the 35. However, the Blue Devils were also flagged for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, giving the Tar Heels’ offense its first snap of the day at midfield. Eight plays later, UNC was in the end zone.

2. The second half didn’t go much better. After Duke kicked a field goal with one second remaining before halftime to cut UNC’s lead to 42-10, the Blue Devils got the second half kickoff. On the first snap, Deon Jackson fumbled. UNC recovered and took three plays to score. Duke, which leads the nation in turnovers, added two more. UNC turned both of them into touchdowns.

3. In the run up to the game, players on both teams said that the team that was more physical would win. That was clearly North Carolina. On one touchdown run, UNC running back Michael Carter was met by his namesake — Duke safety Michael Carter II — at the goal line. The Michael Carter-on-Michael Carter crime ended with the UNC back bowling over the Duke safety for a score. Later in the game, UNC running back Javonte Williams steamrolled several Duke defenders on a 30-plus yard touchdown run.

Number to Know

7 — UNC scored on its first seven possessions of the game, which took the Tar Heels into the third quarter. Not only was Carolina perfect on the first seven drives, but all seven of them ended up as touchdowns.

They Said It

“I am 100% behind Javonte for Heisman.”

— UNC quarterback Sam Howell on running back Javonte Williams

Player of the Game

Javonte Williams, Tar Heels running back — Williams tied a UNC record dating back to 1981 with four touchdowns in one half, helping lead Carolina’s first-half explosion. Williams moved into the national lead in touchdowns scored on the season, with 17. He rushed for 151 yards and three touchdowns, while catching four passes for 24 yards and a score. Williams only touched the ball 16 times in the game, on 12 carries and four catches, but he made the most of it, scoring four touchdowns, or one every four times the ball was in his hands.

Critical thinking

When David Cutcliffe took over at Duke, the football program was unquestionably the worst in the nation and considered a graveyard for coaches. Over the last dozen years, Cutcliffe has done the impossible, upgrading Duke’s facilities and roster, taking the team to bowl games regularly and playing for an ACC title once.

The overhaul would seem to earn him legendary status at Duke and near lifetime job security as Blue Devils coach. However, following a rough year last season and high-profile changes at quarterback and play-caller that haven’t worked out, the grumbling from the Duke fan base appears to be increasing.

With games against Wake Forest and Florida State still remaining on the schedule, the idea of Duke needing to move on seems like a real possibility. The administration may still be on board with Cutcliffe — it’s hard to imagine it wouldn’t be — but his seat is likely starting to heat up.