CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Duke’s defense was on the field for another long touchdown. But this one was scored by one of the Blue Devils’ defenders, and it kept the Victory Bell – and, at least for now, perfection – in their possession.
Bryon Fields returned an interception 61 yards for the game-sealing score in Duke’s 27-17 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
”It was just a coincidence that it was me that happened to make that play – it could have been anybody on that defense,” Fields said. ”Guys believed in each other, were playing hard and we were able to make a huge play for the team.”
The Blue Devils (4-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) matched their victory total from last year, prolonged their best start since 2014 and kept possession of their traveling trophy by beating the rival Tar Heels (1-3, 0-2) for the second straight year – just the second time that’s happened since 1989.
”My final days here, I’m going to be able to ring that bell any morning I want,” senior center Austin Davis said.
Shaun Wilson scored the go-ahead touchdown from 1 yard out midway through the fourth quarter, and Daniel Jones was 18 of 32 for 202 yards with a 28-yard touchdown pass to Davis Koppenhaver and a key 45-yard pass to T.J. Rahming to start the drive that ended with Wilson’s TD.
Chazz Surratt ran 56 yards for a touchdown and threw a 45-yard TD pass to Anthony Ratliff for North Carolina, but followed Wilson’s scoring run with the play of the game: His odd-looking, two-handed throw under pressure that was picked off by Fields, who returned it down the left sideline for his school-record fourth career pick-six that made it a 10-point game with 4:01 remaining.
Austin Parker kicked field goals of 27 and 24 yards for Duke. Freeman Jones kicked a 34-yard field goal for the Tar Heels, who fell to 0-3 at home this season but led all three in the fourth quarter.
”It sucks, man,” linebacker Cole Holcomb said. ”It’s just, it stinks. Nothing else I can say about it.”
Duke: The Blue Devils’ defense, which entered as the nation’s best against the run, once again got away with giving up big plays. Duke allowed passes covering 35, 45 and 47 yards in addition to the 56-yard rush by Surratt. A week ago, Baylor had scoring plays that covered 44, 73 and 79 yards.
”We believe in our defense,” Fields said. ”We believe we can create turnovers, pressure the quarterback, we can pressure receivers on the outside. We’ve got people flying around making plays, playing with a lot of energy and that can definitely help you win games if you limit mistakes.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels will bemoan both the interception and the run of injuries that continue to plague the team. They ruled three starters out with season-ending injuries in the days leading up to this game – then lost top receiver Austin Proehl after his early 47-yard catch. WR Rontavius Groves was hurt early in the fourth quarter of his first college game, clutching his right knee after he planted it while trying to make a catch.
By finding a way to stay undefeated and beat their fiercest rival on the road, Duke might pick up a few more votes in the AP Top 25. But chances are, the Blue Devils will have to beat No. 14 Miami on Friday night to earn their first ranking since 2014.
KEY PLAY II
The go-ahead drive started with a throw that maybe shouldn’t have been made – Jones’ deep pass toward a double-covered Rahming. ”I just saw a good player down the field,” Jones said. ”I can’t say it was the prettiest ball I’ve ever thrown, but you’ve got to give (Rahming) a lot of credit for making that play, and his competitiveness and talent and just fire really helped us today.”
This one could have been over much earlier. The Blue Devils were poised to make it a two-score game at the half, driving inside the UNC 10 with a 10-3 lead in the final moments of the second quarter. But the drive stalled, Parker’s chip-shot field goal was blocked and Surratt hit two quick, long passes, including the 45-yard score to Ratliff that made it 10-all at halftime.
Duke: The Blue Devils have a quick turnaround with a Friday night home game against No. 14 Miami – the Hurricanes’ first appearance in Durham since the infamous eight-lateral loss in 2015.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels travel to Atlanta for another Coastal Division matchup with Georgia Tech on Saturday.
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