Here a look at the good and bad of UNC's third win in 12 games, and first ACC victory in eight tries.
Dan Orner – Orner atoned for missing two field goals and an extra point by nailing a 47-yard field goal as time expired to give the Tar Heels a 23-21 victory. He was one of the few Heels that played consistently well this fall, but had a bad day up to the final kick. Kudos to head coach John Bunting for having confidence in his kicker and setting up the long kick.
Jacque Lewis – Lewis became UNC's first (and only) 100-yard rusher for the campaign by gaining 102 yards on 17 carries for an average of 6 yards per attempt. He ran hard and with some power. Once as far back as third on the depth chart after being the starter in September, credit Lewis for fighting and competing, and earning his job back.
Darian Durant – Durant's presence gave some life to the Heels, but most impressive was his ability to escape would-be tacklers, despite being sacked five times. He completed 21-35 passes for 262 yards, but struggled once again fumbling twice – once on a bobbled snap – and threw and interception. But for the most part he made quality decisions and gave the team a lift. His poise and presence in the huddle was one thing many of his teammates alluded to as a reason the final drive was a success.
Sam Aiken – Aiken finished his career with an eight-catch, 88-yard performance. He had another nice game making tough catches and running for hard yards after the catch. Aiken was honorable mention All-ACC, but most who follow the Heels know he is a bit better than that!
Dexter Reid – Was this his last game as a Tar Heel? Reid had another great performance as he was all over the place. Named first-team All-ACC, Reid should also be the team's MVP. UNC fans and the program certainly want him to return for his senior year, but if he goes pro many will understand.
53 seconds – The final 53 seconds of the game will go down in history as one of UNC's most memorable comeback wins, for many reasons that regard the rivalry and avoiding a winless conference slate, but also because it was impressive nonetheless. Aiken's 10-yard reception that took just four seconds and got UNC to the 30-yard-line right before Orner's kick was HUGE. He made his last catch at UNC count!
Kick off returns – UNC actually had a decent day returning kickoffs. Wallace Wright returned two KOs for 74 yards, with a long of 52 – a season high for any Heel. Madison Hedgecock had one return for five yards, but overall, UNC returned three kickoffs for 79 yards.
Third down defense – Duke was just 5-15 on third down, a clear improvement for UNC from many of its previous games.
6 sacks - Duke's Alex Wade had 141 yards on 25 carries and Chris Douglas had 43 yards on 10 carries, but UNC sacked Duke's QBs for a total of –46 yards, meaning the Devils had 140 yards on the ground for the game. They averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, the second consecutive week UNC held the opposition to less than 4 yards per rushing attempt.
Short possessions – Duke had six possessions in which it totaled less than 10 yards, and eight that were no more than 20 yards.
8th place – Is better than 9th and last place. The Tar Heels avoided the cellar and just the third 10-loss season in school history.
Victory Bell – UNC has now defeated the Blue Devils 13 consecutive times and will keep the Victory Bell for another year. The meaning of the Bell has been overlooked by many UNC fans, but imagine the Heels taking the field WITHOUT it. They'd sure miss it then.
Late defense – Duke went 57 yards on 10 plays and 72 yards on eight plays on its final two drives. The Devils scored the go-ahead TD on its final possession, but missed a 41-yard FG on the next to last possession. That means 129 of their final 317 yards came on the final two drives. Previously, they had just 188 yards.
The Heels were downright brutal on Duke's final two offensive plays. They allowed the Devils to convert a fourth-and-nine and then gave up the nearly uncontested 33-yard TD pass that put Duke in the lead.
Kicking woes – Obviously Orner made up for what was easily his worst game prior to the last four seconds. He missed a pair of field goals and an extra point, which was the difference until his game-winner.
Tackling – The tackling was better than in most games, but the opponent was not. Duke had too many yards after hits, especially running the ball up the middle. There was definitely improvement, but the team likely didn't grade out too well in this department.
Pass protection – Durant was sacked five times for a loss of 48 yards and could have been taken down four or five more times, at least. His ability to narrowly escape would-be tacklers in the backfield kept a few drives alive. The Heels' OL was better at run blocking this year than last, but the pass blocking didn't appear much better, if at all.
"Bowl game" – Senior linebacker Malcolm Stewart said this was UNC's "bowl game." There's no doubt it was, and Stewart and the rest of the players, especially the seniors, were certainly justified in feeling that way. But the bigger picture says that for UNC to put so much into this win, other than the obvious rivalry ramifications, is an indication of how truly awful the season was. No doubt everyone in the program would prefer next year's bowl game to actually be one, and for the Duke game to remain just a rivalry.
Final record – The Tar Heels finished 1-7 in the ACC and 3-9 overall. Many UNC fans and neutral observers thought the team would struggle to finish at .500, but most didn't predict a 3-9 finish, and nobody thought this club would lose so many games in such embarrassing fashion.
Full house – It's pretty sad that Duke fans were more interested in this clash with the Heels than usual, simply because they had a better chance to beat them since UNC had such a terrible season. Yes, the streak, and eighth place was at stake, but two bad teams fill up Wallace Wade doesn't make sense especially when the place has many empty seats when UNC is at least average. This isn't a UNC bad so much, but lets face it, the rivalry would be better if football and playing UNC in football mattered more to Duke fans. Otherwise this game may soon be moved to the middle of the season.
The Tar Heels' season is complete. They will next play on Sept. 6 at home against Syracuse.
Senior writer Andrew Jones is in his seventh year with Inside Carolina. He hosts a late afternoon radio show on ESPN Radio, WMFD AM630 in Wilmington and can be reached via e-mail at: AndrewJones@AM630.net.