It’s the first time the Tar Heels have lost in consecutive years to Duke since the 1988-89 seasons, the last two of Steve Spurrier’s three-year run at Duke and the first two of Mack Brown’s decade-long tenure at Carolina.
The Blue Devils made the plays they needed to make while the Tar Heels were hamstrung with all manner of ineptitude in front of a sell-out crowd of 62,000 in Kenan Stadium. The result was a 27-25 win for Duke that sent the Blue Devils to the ACC Championship Game with a 10-2 mark and left the Tar Heels at 6-6 to await what could be a Belk Bowl bid Dec. 28 in Charlotte.
“Instead of six in a row, it’s five in a row,” Carolina Coach Larry Fedora said of the Tar Heels’ second-half run with five wins. “It leaves a bad taste in guys’ mouths, especially for the seniors. We would like to have sent them out the right way on this field. But we’ll rebound. This is a resilient football team. The season did not end today.”
Quarterback Marquise Williams, who had developed admirably since mid-season after replacing the injured Bryn Renner, ran the ball effectively and had some good throws, but unfortunately too many were off the mark. One third-quarter pass to tight end Eric Ebron was behind Ebron and led to an interception. Moments later, Williams had Quinshad Davis open ner the goal and overthrew him.
On the very next play, Williams was pin-point accurate near the goal to T.J.Logan, but the freshman running back let the ball fall through his hands on what would have been a sure touchdown.
“Marquise probably didn’t play as well as we would have liked for him to play, he probably feels the same way,” Fedora said. “He just didn’t quite do the things we felt we could do today.”
The Tar Heels dropped three potential interceptions, the last one by Tre Boston on Duke’s game-winning field goal drive late in the game, and they gave up a kick-off return for a touchdown. They also missed a field goal and were flagged nine times.
“I am very disappointed for the seniors,” Fedora said. “ We just didn’t do what we needed to do as a football team today. I would love to say that Duke just beat us, but we didn’t play well enough to win a football game today.”
The Tar Heel coaches will spend the first two weeks of December recruiting while the players begin studying for exams and doing conditioning work. Carolina’s bowl berth will be announced Sunday night Dec. 8 on Bowl Selection Sunday.