Duke and UNC went into the annual grudge match Saturday and they put on one of the better games in the 110 year history of the rivalry.
Duke played without star quarterback Riley Leonard again, and true freshman Grayson Loftis racked up 189 passing yards for three touchdowns.
The Blue Devils fell behind 13-0 before fighting back to go up 14-13. The Tar Heels scored on a field goal to go back up 16-14 and then got another to go up 19-14 in the third.
The fourth quarter got kind of wild. The Heels push out to a 26-14 lead, then Duke scored two touchdowns to go up 29-26, including a two-point conversion pass by Jalon Calhoun.
Then UNC QB Drake Maye hit another TD pass to Byron Nesbit to reclaim the lead again 33-29.
Lofton made a very impressive drive for a freshman quarterback, taking Duke the length of the field with 1:55 left and hitting Jordan Moore with a 30 foot touchdown pass to put Duke up 36-33.
But Maye - Luke’s little brother really is an immensely talented quarterback - got the ball back with :41 left and got UNC in field goal position. Noah Burnette hit that as time ran out in regulation.
It was more or less the same thing in the two overtimes. The teams traded field goals in the first, then in the second, Maye ran the ball in from the five for a TD. UNC opted for a two-point conversion to go up 47-39.
Loftis hit Moore for another TD but Duke failed to match UNC’s two-point conversion and the Heels won 47-45.
It was a tough loss, but Duke is managing to play well despite losing two quarterbacks and a number of other injuries. There was a chance that UNC could have just run away with this completely. That they didn't speaks volumes about the character of Duke’s football team, something Blue Devils coach Mike Elko commented on afterwards, saying “[I’m] extremely proud of my team, proud of how we fought, proud of how we competed, proud of how we battled.”
Winning is obviously better, but Duke has shown immense character all season. Being in position to win against a solid Tar Heel team with one of the best quarterbacks in college football was much, much more than most people expected. The best thing you can say about this team, and it’s a great thing to say about any team, is that these Blue Devils fight.
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