DURHAM, N.C. – Duke used a 14-play 87-yard drive in the final three minutes of the game to capture a thrilling 33-30 victory over rival North Carolina in front of a capacity crowd of 33,941 at Wallace Wade Stadium Saturday evening. Quarterback Sean Renfree found receiver Jamison Crowder in the end zone with a five-yard strike with 13 seconds left to lead the Blue Devils to the come-from-behind victory.
Duke improves to 6-2 overall and 3-1 in ACC play and is bowl eligible for the first time since 1994. North Carolina is now 5-3 overall and 2-2 in conference action.
Renfree finished the game 23-of-36 for 276 yards passing and the winning touchdown. The Blue Devils used a balanced attack, finishing the night with 510 yards of total offense. Running back Josh Snead paced the ground game with 99 yards on 15 carries, while tailback Jela Duncan had 74 yards and a touchdown.
The Blue Devils’ defense was outstanding, holding the Tar Heels to just 206 yards through the first three quarters of action, including 75 yards through the air. Safeties Walt Canty and Jordon Byas anchored the defensive effort with 12 tackles each. Canty picked up seven solo stops, while Byas had four.
North Carolina struggled offensively throughout the opening three quarters, scoring only nine points in three red zone opportunities. The Blue Devils outgained North Carolina 366-206 after three periods and led 23-9 with a pair of rushing touchdowns by quarterback Anthony Boone and Duncan and three field goals from kicker Ross Martin.
Trailing by two scores, the North Carolina offense started clicking on all cylinders in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels amassed 200 yards of offense, including 154 yards through the air, and two touchdowns to go in front 30-26 with 3:12 remaining in the game.
North Carolina, for the first time since early in the second quarter, pulled within one score to start the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels came up big on 4th-and-6 from the Duke 43-yard line as quarterback Bryn Renner threw a 34-yard strike to tight end Eric Ebron to the Duke nine-yard line. Three plays later, tailback Giovani Bernard powered into the end zone to make it a 23-16 game with 13:14 to play.
The Blue Devils answered with the running game of Snead and Duncan, eating up 3:47 on the clock and setting up Martin for a career-long 43-yard field goal and a 26-16 Duke lead. Snead picked up 24 yards on three carries on the drive, while Duncan had four.
With 9:22 remaining in the game and trailing 26-16, North Carolina found the end zone on consecutive possessions for a 30-26 advantage in the waning minutes of regulation. The first was a five-yard Renner to receiver Sean Tapley pass, while the second was a fumble recovery by Bernard at the four-yard line.
Trailing for the first time since the first quarter, Duke took over at its own 13-yard line with 3:06 left on the clock. Renfree orchestrated the game-winning drive, connecting on 7-of-11 pass attempts for 76 yards, including third-down gains of 29 and 15 yards to Vernon. Facing fourth-and-two at the UNC five-yard line, Renfree found Crowder crossing from the right. Crowder collided with two North Carolina defenders, but held on for the acrobatic catch in the end zone.
Duke closes the month of October next Saturday, Oct. 27, at Florida State. Kickoff is set for 3:30 p.m.