KENAN MEMORIAL STADIUM/CHAPEL HILL — Two Casey Barth field goals and a 3-yard reverse touchdown run by receiver Jheranie Boyd put this game out of reach for the Blue Devils in the second half and UNC ran away 19-6 for its 19th victory in the last 20 games against Duke.
Ryan Houston recorded his first career 100-yard rushing performance, often trucking over the Duke defense straight through the middle to reach 164 yards on the ground on 37 carries. Starter Shaun Draughn left the field on UNC’s first possession after an injury and missed the remainder of the game.
“In the fourth quarter I really felt like they were getting fatigued because I was getting a lot of arm tackles,” Houston said after the game. “I was running through all the tackles, and they weren’t pressing me as much as they were in the first quarter.”
A 6-6 tie in the third quarter was broken by Barth’s third field goal of the contest after Thaddeus Lewis and T.J. Yates swapped interceptions.
Most surprising in the game was the lack of passing yards produced by Lewis, who threw for only 113 yards. Would anyone believe before this game that Yates would throw for more yards than one of the nation’s best quarterback?
Duke’s passing attack was hampered by UNC’s speedy front, including sophomore defensive end Robert Quinn, who sacked Lewis three times, forced a fumble and drew double teams that allowed the rest of the line to get more pressure on Lewis.
“I thought we would be able to get pressure on him only rushing four because someone was going to get the double team and it frees somebody up,” Quinn said. “Whoever gets that one-on-one has to make the best of that opportunity and that’s what we tried to do.”
Much like the Virginia Tech game, the UNC offense clawed for first down after first down, hogging nearly 39 minutes of the game clock and keeping the defense fresh to pressure Duke, which failed to score a touchdown for the first time this season.
For much of the season, the UNC offense has searched for an identity and found it in the performances against Florida State, Virginia Tech and Duke, and through Houston they’ve found a winning formula pounding the ball up the middle and throwing in a play-action pass every now and then or calling a reverse.
John Shoop called another excellent game, keeping the Devils guessing on the fake reverses run on most rushing plays. One question coach Butch Davis answered after the game was whether Houston wore down during the game.
“The only thing I know is that the football is not very heavy,” Davis said.
UNC will face Miami next week with much less to lose now that the Heels only need one more game to reach bowl eligibility. If the defense and the rushing attack maintain their play, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a 2-1 finish.
The Blue Devils move to 5-4 on the season and faces Coastal leader Georgia Tech in Durham next Saturday. Duke’s defensive line is going to have to improve if the Blue Devils are going to keep pace with the option attack.