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Sunday, October 21, 2012

Duke grabs the Victory Bell, gets voucher for long-awaited bowl trip

Posted by on Sun, Oct 21, 2012 at 12:01 AM

WALLACE WADE STADIUM/DURHAM Duke will host archrival UNC for the 99th time in their annual battle for the Victory Bell, and this one means even more to the Blue Devils than it has in a very long time.

Dukes Jamison Crowder rolls after catching the winning touchdown pass as UNCs Kevin Reddick (48) and Tim Scott defend.
  • Photo by Chris Baird
  • Duke's Jamison Crowder rolls after catching the winning touchdown pass as UNC's Kevin Reddick (48) and Tim Scott defend.

With just one more win Duke (5-2, 2-1 ACC) will earn its first bowl berth since 1994. But to get it this quickly David Cutcliffe’s club would have to get an upset against a solid UNC team (5-2, 2-1) that cannot play in a bowl this time and thus has everything riding on the regular season.

It’s new Tar Heel coach Larry Fedora’s first shot at the Blue Devils, and their earliest meeting since 1943. UNC has won eight straight in the series.

There’s a sellout crowd in the house as the old rivals square off on a cool fall evening. As the ACC is holding a sportsmanship promotion, the teams meet at midfield for a pregame handshake.

Duke finally gets the Victory Bell back, holding on despite three fourth-quarter TDs from the Tar Heels and surviving 33-30. Notify the bowl people.

The Tar Heels strike first exactly four minutes into the game, as Casey Barth’s 30-yard field goal completes a 10-play, 60-yard march.

But Duke comes right back to take the lead on a three-yard plunge from Anthony Boone to end an eight-play, 68-yard drive. Ross Martin’s kick makes it 7-3 at 6:59.

And the Blue Devils make it 10-3 at 2:02, as Martin’s 28-yard field goal bounces off the inside of the right goal post. Conner Vernon’s 35-yard pass from Sean Renfree to the UNC 13 is the key play in the nine-play, 52-yard journey.

The lead goes to 13-3 with 14:12 left in the second on a 35-yard Martin field goal. That eight-play, 30-yard march is set up when Jamal Bruce recovers an Eric Ebron fumble at the Tar Heel 43.

The field-goal show continues at 11:20 of the second on a 23-yard Barth field goal at the end of a nine-play, 80-yard drive.

Dukes Sean Renfree looks to pass as the Tar Heels Dion Guy pursues.

And the Blue Devils make it 10-3 at 2:02, as Martin’s 28-yard field goal bounces off the inside of the right goal post. Conner Vernon’s 35-yard pass from Sean Renfree to the UNC 13 is the key play in the nine-play, 52-yard journey.

The lead goes to 13-3 with 14:12 left in the second on a 35-yard Martin field goal. That eight-play, 30-yard march is set up when Jamal Bruce recovers an Eric Ebron fumble at the Tar Heel 43.

The field-goal show continues at 11:20 of the second on a 23-yard Barth field goal at the end of a nine-play, 80-yard drive.

But Duke stretches the lead to two touchdowns with 4:25 left in the half, as Jela Duncan bulls in from two yards out to finish the eight-play, 44-yard march. Martin adds the kick.

The Tar Heels come back for another field goal at 8:38 of the third as when Barth connects from 28, ending a 14-play, 48-yard drive.

And Duke answers at 4:28 as Martin’s 20-yarder completes a 12-play, 72-yard excursion to make it 23-9.

Things get more interesting with 13:14 remaining as UNC’s Gio Bernard goes in from a yard out to finish a seven-play, 47-yard drive and Barth adds the try. The key play is Bryn Renner’s fourth-down, 34-yard pass to Ebron at the 9.

Duke gets a bit of breathing room at 9:22 when Martin’s 43-yarder completes an eight-play, 51-yard drive.

The Tar Heels tighten it right back up with 6:28 to go, as Renner finds Sean Tapley in the center of the end zone from five yards out at the end of a 10-play, 75-yard march and Barth adds the try.

And go ahead on a shocker of a 60-yard play with 3:12 to go. Renner throws over the middle to Ebron, who fumbles with Bernard recovering at the Duke 4 and taking it in for the score. Barth’s kick makes it 30-26.

But there is no fork in Duke. The Blue Devils go 87 yards in 14 plays, scoring the winner on Renfree’s five-yard pass to Jamison Crowder on fourth down with 13 seconds to go. Martin adds the conversion.

UNC runs two plays, the last one a Renner completion to Ebron before three successful laterals and a fumble later Ebron fumbles and Sydney Sarmiento recovers at the Tar Heel 35.

And the wild rumpus begins.

Renfree completes 23 of 36 passes for 276 yards and the TD with one interception, with Vernon catching six for 124 yards and Crowder five for 41. Josh Snead leads Duke’s 234-yard rushing attack with 99 yards on 15 carries.

Renner completes 19 of 32 passes for 198 yards with the two TDs. Bernard carries 24 times for 143 yards and one TD and catches five passes for 66 yards and the other.

They said it …

Duke coach Cutcliffe: “I’m just tickled for the players. I’ve never seen a group have more fun, and they deserved it. It was a great win and an incredible atmosphere in Wallace Wade. To all the Duke fans who came — thank you, thank you, thank you.”

UNC coach Fedora: “Duke outplayed us and they out-executed us in every phase of the game. They won the game and they were the better team tonight; that’s all there was to it. We didn’t stop the run nor did we stop the pass. We did a poor job of executing tonight. It looked like to me they did whatever they wanted - offensively, defensively and on special teams.”

Renfree: “We had a good amount of time on the clock (for the final drive) and guys were really focused and into it. Guys made a bunch of plays, we got good protection up front, and it was truly a team effort all the way to the end. We went out and executed very well.”

Renner: “We didn’t make enough plays to win. In critical situations we didn’t come through. Defense got us turnovers and we couldn’t put the ball in the end zone enough. They played better than us. In the fourth quarter we made some plays and got into a good position to win the ball game, but we started too late.”

What does it all mean?

That Duke is currently on the proverbial Cloud Nine, while the Tar Heels are going to have to beat visiting N.C. State next week to be able to salvage a good season.

Stars of the game

1. Renfree.
2. Crowder.
3. Bernard.

Play of the game

The winning touchdown pass.

Streaks
Duke: Won 1.
UNC: Lost 1.

All-time series
UNC leads 58-37-4.

Up next
UNC vs. N.C. State, Oct. 27, 12:30 p.m.
Duke at Florida State, Oct. 27, 3:30 p.m.

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Duke is currently on the proverbial Cloud Nine, while the Tar Heels are going to have to beat visiting N.C. State next week to be able to salvage a good season.

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