Talking Points: Duke goes bowling
Posted October 21, 2012
1. Perhaps the only talking point necessary -- Duke snapped 17 years of futility and became bowl eligible for the first time since 1994 with a 33-30 win over North Carolina.
The milestone gives head coach David Cutcliffe tangible validation for the incredible work he and his staff have done in Durham. The process likely took longer than anyone would care to admit, but culture change doesn't happen overnight.
Rivals might not like the Blue Devils in general, but it's difficult not to respect how Cutcliffe goes about his business. Slideshow: Duke comes back to beat Tar Heels
2. Duke stemmed the flow of momentum picked up by North Carolina late in the 4th quarter with a 14-play, 87-yard drive that ate up most of the time remaining. It came down to a "4th and bowl" situation for the Blue Devils with 13 seconds left on the clock.
Sean Renfree managed to find Jamison Crowder through a small window from 5-yards out for the touchdown. More impressive than the throw was Crowder holding on to the catch after getting upended by two North Carolina defenders in the endzone.
3. Duke had ground out a 23-9 lead entering the fourth quarter, but failed execution on a fake punt at the start of the final period suddenly became the turning point of the contest.
North Carolina extended the following drive when Bryn Renner converted a 4th-and-6 with a 34-yard pass to Eric Ebron. Giovani Bernard rushed for a touchdown a handful of plays later and cut the Blue Devils' lead to 23-16. Inside the Rivalry: Duke vs. UNC Football
Following a Ross Martin field goal to give Duke a 26-16 cushion, the Tar Heels answered with a 75 drive that was capped by Renner's 5-yard touchdown pass to Sean Tapley. Duke was forced to go 3-and-out on the next drive and things got weird.
North Carolina looked like they were going to win the game when they literally got a great bounce in their favor. Renner passed to Erik Highsmith, but the ball popped loose near the 20-yard line and Ross Cockrell jumped on it. The football didn't cooperate for Cockrell, but Bernard hustled and snatched it up in stride for the touchdown. The Tar Heels were now up 30-26 and all the momentum with 3:30 left in the game.
Well, at least it felt that way at the time.
4. Duke was physically superior and set the pace against North Carolina for the majority of the game. The Blue Devils offensive line pushed the Tar Heels defensive line, which allowed for big runs up the middle. Check the box score.
- Josh Snead: 15 carries for 98 yards
- Jela Duncan: 22 caries for 75 yards
- Juwan Thomason: 11 carries for 64 yards
North Carolina didn't help itself with poor tackling, which lead directly to many of Duke's 30 first downs. Duke offensive leaders
5. The red zone continues to be an area of concern for North Carolina. Prior to Bernard's rushing score with 13:51 to go in the 4th quarter, the Tar Heels had settled for three field goals. The Tar Heels hadn't scored a touchdown since the 2nd quarter of the win at Miami.
Renner was decidedly off in the first half, completing only 8-of-13 for 28 yards. He shook off the bad start with several key throws late in the game and put the Tar Heels in position to win.
6. Break of the game? Tre Boston's interception of Sean Renfree was called back thanks to a North Carolina penalty early in the 1st quarter. Potential point swing went in the Blue Devils favor when they took a 7-3 lead instead of a possible 10-0 deficit.
7. Dream the impossible dream, kids. Duke and NC State control their own destiny in their respective ACC divisions.