By AARON BEARD – AP Sports Writer
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) – North Carolina stopped Duke’s 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game in the second overtime, sending the No. 24 to a 47-45 victory against the rival Blue Devils in a thriller on Saturday night.
Duke’s Grayson Loftis couldn’t connect with Jalon Calhoun in the back of the end zone, capping a game that brought the teams together for 39 fourth-quarter points before going into extra periods that ended with UNC players spilling onto the field from the sideline. – closely followed by fans pouring out of the stands in pursuit – to celebrate in their home finale.
“This is going to be one they remember for the rest of their lives on Senior Night,” UNC coach Mack Brown said.
Star quarterback Drake Maye provided the margin of victory for the Tar Heels (8-2, 4-2 Atlantic Coast Conference), running around the right side and spinning three hits near the goal line to extend the ball to for a 5-yard keeper.
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He then made a play on the fly for the conversion, broke off a keeper attempt as the Duke defense rallied and flipped the ball past John Copenhaver in the end zone for a 47-39 lead.
Loftis got the Blue Devils (6-4, 3-3) to answer when he found Jordan Moore over the middle for a 6-yard score, falling just short of the tying conversion.
That sent UNC fans pouring onto the field to celebrate a fifth straight victory against the Blue Devils, allowing the Tar Heels to keep the winning streak in the hands of the winner of the contest for another year.
“I’m proud of how we came together in the fourth quarter,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “Take this one.”
Omarion Hampton powered the Tar Heels offense all night, rushing for 169 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 31 carries. Maye threw for 342 yards and two rushing scores in what coach Mack Brown said will likely be his last home game as a top NFL prospect, though Maye has not yet committed to a decision.
UNC also got a huge game from receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker, who had seven catches for a career-high 162 yards. The Tar Heels finished with a 537-379 edge in total offense.
UNC struggled on special teams, including a fumbled punt return pinning UNC at its own 1-yard line before Maye threw his only interception to set up a Duke TD. The Blue Devils also recovered an onside kick as they ran off 15 straight points to erase a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
But there was at least one bright spot for UNC: Noah Burnette kicked six field goals to tie a program record, including a 43-yarder on the final play of regulation that sent the game into overtime at 36-all.
Loftis threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns as he continued to lead Duke’s offense while starter Riley Leonard was sidelined with a lower-body injury. Moore had all three of those scores, including a 30-yard fourth-down grab by Loftis that pushed Duke ahead 36-33 with 41 seconds left in regulation.
Jordan Waters also ran for 113 yards and two touchdowns for Duke.
Duke: The Blue Devils have injuries at key positions and among some of their top prospects, most notably Leonard out with a lower body injury. And they found themselves struggling to match UNC’s offensive production, though they capitalized on their opportunities and the Tar Heels’ mistakes — then pounced in the fourth to end their tournament losing streak. But it ended up being the second straight heartbreaking loss in the competition, with UNC winning on a last-second touchdown pass last year.
UNC: The Tar Heels stood at No. 10 in the AP Top 25 during a 6-0 start before blowing double-digit streaks after halftime in losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. They did it again here, but still managed to land the last few punches in a competitive frenzy that saw them spill onto the pitch to celebrate after Loftis’ final miss.
UNC could see a bump when the next AP Top 25 is released on Sunday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Virginia next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels will face Clemson next Saturday.
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