Maybe Duke is still stunned over the events of last week against Miami. Maybe UNC is just a better team. Whatever the case, the Tar Heels are looking to score a second straight big win in the ACC Coastal and put themselves one giant step closer to playing in its first ACC Championship Game. A 49-yard touchdown pass from Marquise Williams to Bug Howard on the final play of the half gave UNC a 38-10 lead.
UNC jumped all over their rivals in the first quarter with three touchdowns. Williams connected with Ryan Switzer for a big 89-yard touchdown play on their first possession of the game for the early 7-0 lead. Williams would later run in for a four-yard touchdown on its next drive, and Elijah Hood scored a rushing touchdown at the end of an 11-play drive before the end of the first quarter.
Duke seemed to bounce back in the game early in the second quarter when Jela Duncan ripped off a 52-yard touchdown run, but the Tar Heels continued tacking on with a field goal and a second touchdown pass from Williams, a 74-yard scoring play with Mack Hollins doing the damage.
With UNC’s win over Pittsburgh last week, the Tar Heels are in prime position to take a commanding lead in the ACC Coastal with a win. If the Tar Heels hold on to win this one, they will have a one-game lead in the loss column on Pitt and head-to-head tiebreakers against the Panthers, Blue Devils with Miami coming to town next week.
Duke (8-2, 4-2 ACC) is one step closer to an ACC Championship… Game appearance. Yes, Duke football is now in a favorable position to get to the ACC Championship Game to face Florida State thanks to a 48-30 victory over Miami (7-3, 3-3 ACC) on Saturday in Durham. Duke scored two fourth quarter touchdowns to push a one-point lead to a 18-point victory and with some help around the conference on Saturday the Blue Devils are now in a great position in the ACC Coastal Division.
Because Georgia Tech (6-4, 5-3 ACC) lost Thursday and Virginia Tech (7-4, 4-3 ACC) lost earlier in the day, Duke can clinch the ACC Coastal Division by winning their final two games of the season without the need to rely on tie breakers.Duke’s final two games of the regular season will be played on the road, at Wake Forest and at North Carolina. If Duke loses one of those final two games the Coastal Division will have to be settled by tiebreakers dependent on how many teams are tied for the division lead. Still, Duke’s head-to-head winning percentage against teams likely to be in that scenario should give Duke an edge.
This Duke team, and the rest of the ACC, may be on a level clearly below Florida State, but what the Blue Devils have done over the last season and a half is worthy of plenty of praise. On Saturday Duke put together over 500 yards of offense against Miami and hammered out key fourth downs on the ground, including a dagger by way of a 33-yard touchdown run by Shaquielle Powell on a fourth and one play in the fourth quarter. Although Miami put together a big offensive day with over 500 yards of offense and 30 points, the defense came through late in the game to hold off Miami.
Duke’s Josh Snead had nine carries for 138 yards and Jela Duncan came close to a 100-yard day as well. Brandon Connette scored four rushing touchdowns and passed for one more to fuel the offense. Connette became the school’s all-time leading touchdown rusher in the victory as well.
The win was Duke’s eight of the season, giving the Blue Devils their most wins in a single season since 1994. The last time Duke won nine games in a season was 1941. Duke has only won nine games in a season four times in program history.
Now, what about Miami?
The Hurricanes have lost three straight games and they have been plunging since facing Florida State as a top ten team. Injuries have cost Miami of course, but the Hurricanes need to stop the bleeding quickly. Miami will still be going to a bowl game but now the Hurricanes are in fourth place in the ACC Coastal Division and losing bowl standing. Miami takes on Virginia (2-8, 0-6 ACC) at home next week and should be able to get back in the win column. It is not too late to end the season on a high note.