It’s been a miserable season on the gridiron for Duke, which held such promise after beating Notre Dame earlier in the year but saw injuries put hopes of another bowl game in jeopardy.
On Thursday night however, the Blue Devils gave their fans one last highlight from the football field before attention on campus turned to the school’s basketball team by upsetting rival North Carolina 28-27 and causing a minor shakeup in the ACC standings.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Daniel Jones’ first action in the rivalry game was a memorable one, throwing for 240 yards and a touchdown while also extending drives with his legs (94 rushing, two scores). He did a good job spreading things out in the passing game, finding seven different receivers and helping T.J. Rahming hit the 100 yard receiving mark for the game.
With tailback Shaun Wilson also adding 107 yards on the ground, the Blue Devils went a remarkable 10-of-16 on third down and recorded a nearly seven minute drive in the fourth quarter to help salt away the win.
UNC quarterback Mitch Trubisky had an efficient first half but didn’t come out as accurate in the second. He finished with 297 yards and three touchdowns but also tossed two interceptions, the latter of which was right into the arms of a Duke defender with the time winding down to end any hope of a comeback.
The victory is the Blue Devils’ first in ACC play and keeps their slim bowl hopes alive at 4-6 on the season. The team is on the road for their final two games of the year but could be in position to earn a postseason invite at 5-7 depending on how many teams become eligible.
As for North Carolina, the loss takes a return trip to the ACC title game even further out of reach. Virginia Tech owns the head-to-head between the two and only needs to beat Georgia Tech on Saturday or Virginia to end the regular season to clinch the ACC Coastal.