Saturday night was another test to see just how strong the hearts of Tar Heel fans are. In a back-and-forth affair that saw multiple lead changes throughout the night, the Tar Heels got the last laugh thanks to a heroic drive by an offense that had been stymied in the fourth quarter. A 38-35 win gives the Tar Heels their fourth straight win over the rival Blue Devils and strengthens the Tar Heels grip on the ACC Coastal with half of their divisional schedule now in the books. Here is a look at our biggest takeaways from last night’s win.
This Team Just Continues to Have a Flare for the Dramatic
When people ask why my heart health is so bad later in life, this season could certainly be one to point back to. For the fourth time this season, the Tar Heels pulled out a one score victory, all of which have come in rather dramatic fashion. This one may have been the craziest of all, though, capped off by Antoine Green somehow finding a way to stay in bounds to haul in the game-winning touchdown pass. The Tar Heels certainly got some help from the Blue Devils who took two huge penalties on their second-to-last drive of the game and missed the field goal that could have extended the lead to seven, but none of that would matter if the Tar Heels hadn’t been able to counter. There is no denying that this team still has flaws, but this is a team that has learned to win games close and on the road, something they struggled to do in the prior three years.
Drake Maye Continues to Handle Everything Thrown His Way
Maye had two turnovers that could have been the difference in the game, but he didn’t let that affect him in what was his most important comeback yet. He did a great job to extend the play on 4th & 5 on the final drive to allow Josh Downs to come open for the first down and then followed that with the dart to Green for the game winner. Maye finished the night with a career-high 380 yards passing and added 70 more on the ground along with three more touchdowns. Most importantly, when this team needed him the most, he put them on his back and marched them down the field for the biggest win of the season thus far.
Veteran Receivers Step Up Big Time
The Tar Heels have had a bunch of different pass catchers that have played a major role this season, but Saturday night the two most veteran members of this receiving corps stepped up to help the team pull out the victory. Josh Downs was outstanding the entire night, making a couple of highlight reel grabs on jump balls, but nothing was more important than that catch that he had on 4th and 5 on the final drive. Antoine Green once again did a good job of handling the role of the deep threat receiver in this one and when the team needed him to make a play late, he did. That final drive showed just how clutch these two guys are and why the team needed them back despite strong play from younger guys earlier in the season.
Figuring This Defense Out Is An Impossible Task
Trying to get a read on what exactly this Tar Heel defense is going to be from week-to-week might be the most impossible task in all of college football. After two promising weeks, primarily in run defense, the Tar Heel defense was gashed for 297 yards on the ground and 542 yards overall. The defensive line that looked so good down in Miami was pushed around the entire night and the team tackling was about as poor as it has been all season outside of the game against Appalachian State. They teased us once again in the third quarter, looking as if they had settled themselves back into a groove before allowing 213 yards to the Blue Devils in the 4th quarter. The hope was that this unit had officially turned the corner with their performance in the prior two weeks, but the reality is, this will be a rollercoaster ride the rest of the way with this defense.
Antoine Green Joins an Exclusive Group of Heros vs. Duke
Green becomes the latest Tar Heel hero in the rivalry which has produced more dramatic finishes than you may realize. He joins names like Amos Lawrence, Chazz Surratt, Greg Little, Kentwan Balmer and Dan Orner who have all had their legendary moments against the Blue Devils. Depending on how this season works out, this moment from Green will only grow in importance.