"I think the first thing I can do is publicly thank our seniors for the unbelievable commitment to football displayed by them for 12 regular season games," David Cutcliffe said. "They accomplished something that is real important in this whole process. What they accomplished is that it is not okay to be close at Duke...Mike Tauiliili and all those guys have set that standard."
Michael Tauiliili, in his final game at Duke, saved his best performance for his finale, recording a career high 20 tackles, 2.5 for a loss and intercepting his fourth pass of the season.
"I had been dealing with a sprained left ankle since Virginia Tech, but I knew this was my last game and nothing was going to stop me from playing," Tauiliili said. "I was going to give it everything I had. No hesitation, no regrets."
The seniors gave everything they could for the full 60 minutes with the defense stopping the Tar Heels four times in the fourth quarter with three of the stops coming after North Carolina entered Duke territory.
Offensively the Blue Devils gained 278 yards through the air and 78 yards on the ground. Jay Hollingsworth led the backfield with 50 yards on nine carries. Donovan Varner was Lewis's favorite target on the day hauling in a career high 10 passes for 73 yards.
Eron Riley, playing in his final game at Duke as well, was able to hook up with Lewis for a touchdown in the first quarter. Only 1:57 into the game Lewis threw a pass into the flat to Riley for the 8-yard touchdown before the North Carolina defense could get set.
Riley ended the day with five catches for 63 yards and the score.
"It was good that Eron caught a touchdown to finish his career from me," Lewis said.
"I feel bad for those guys," Lewis added. "Eron is more of a soft spoken leader and Michael more of an outgoing leader. Those guys put in time for four years."
The previous play Lewis found Hollingsworth wide open out of the back field down the left side of the field for a 39-yard gain.
The Tar Heels answered on their first offensive series of the game moving the ball 73 yards, mostly on the ground, in 4:37. Shaun Draughn punched it in the end zone on a 4-yard rush off the left edge to tie the game with 8:26 remaining in the first quarter.
On UNC's second offensive series Draughn's fumbled the hand off forward into the hands of Vincent Rey who weaved his way through the North Carolina offense before breaking outside for the 36-yard fumble recovery touchdown, his second of the season. Rey ended the day with 10 tackles.
"The Defensive end in front of me did his job and made a play," Rey said. The ball came out and it kind of came right to me. I just ran for daylight and into the end zone."
With 1:41 left in the first, the Tar Heels put together their second scoring drive of the game gaining 38 total yards with the drive capped off by an 11-yard touchdown pass from T.J. Yates to Draughn to tie the game at 14.
The Tar Heels put together another drive, this time a 15-plays taking up 7:09 of the second quarter. Yates connected with Hakeem Nicks in the end zone for the 25-yard touchdown. Nicks held the ball against his helmet as his momentum carried him out the back of the end zone for the score.
Duke followed up the Tar Heel scoring drive with a 55-yard field goal courtesy of Joe Surgan. The Blue Devils ran out the final 4:28 of the half with Lewis completing 6-of-7 passes on the drive for 50 yards. Duke entered the locker room trailing 21-17.
The Duke defense came up big during the opening series of the second half stopping the Tar Heels on third down for the first time after UNC converted their previous nine third down attempts. Tauiliili made back-to-back solo tackles on Draughn, one for a loss of four, and a sack on third down by Greg Akinbiyi brought the Tar Heels punting unit on the field for the first time.
The offense rewarded the defense for their effort with an 11-play 71-yard scoring drive to open the second half. Nick Maggio split the uprights on a 27-yard field goal to pull the Blue Devils within one with 4:49 left in the third quarter. Hollingsworth carried the ball five times on the drive gaining 40 yards.
The Tar Heels increased the score to 28-20 with 1:16 remaining in the third on a 32-yard touchdown pass from Yates to Richard Quinn who caught the ball in space and rumbled into the end zone for the game's final points.
The 30,322 fans in attendance marked the first time in Duke history that the Blue Devils eclipsed 30,000+ in attendance four times during a season.