Duke’s upset of No. 17 North Carolina all but sets ACC title game matchup
They rang the Victory Bell again and again, and you can be certain it could be heard in Blacksburg, Va.
Duke pulled off a 28-27 upset of No. 17 North Carolina on Thursday night at Wallace Wade Stadium, a stunner that may have decided the ACC Coastal Division race.
It's all but given now that No. 14 Virginia Tech will be representing the division against No. 2 Clemson in the conference championship game Dec. 3 in Orlando.
The Tar Heels faced an uphill battle to begin with. They entered Durham already a half game back of the Hokies in the Coastal — by virtue of a 34-3 loss in Chapel Hill on Oct. 8 — but now Virginia Tech needs only beat Georgia Tech on Saturday in Blacksburg to clinch the division.
That games in in Lane Stadium, where the Hokies have won by an average of 26 points.
Mitch Trubisky had been generating plenty of attention, but the Tar Heels quarterback was largely outplayed by his redshirt freshman counterpart, Daniel Jones. The Blue Devils passer was 22 of 34 for 240 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 94 yards and two scores.
Trubisky, who came in having thrown two interceptions all season, tossed two, including one to Alonzo Saxton II on the Tar Heels' final play.
For Duke, their first ACC win — and the first in the rivalry since 2013 after dropping the last two by 25 and 35 points — ended a frustrating run in which it lost three straight by margins of 10 points (No. 7 Louisville) and three points (twice vs. Georgia Tech and No. 19 Virginia Tech).
A bowl is still in play for David Cutcliffe's crew at 4-5, though they figure to be underdogs on the road against Pitt and Miami.
For the Tar Heels defense, this was a loss that brought back the issues that plagued them for much of the first five weeks of the season.
Ranked 72nd in total defense (410.2 yards per game), and 106th vs. the rush (221.8), Blue Devils burned coordinator Gene Chizik's group for 467 yards and 227 on the ground. That's nothing new. A week ago against Georgia Tech, they yielded 518 yards, including 374 rushing.
But North Carolina had won seven of eight, including its last three, by being more bend than break. In three straight wins over No. 16 Miami, Virginia and the Yellow Jackets, the Tar Heels allowed no more than 20 points.
Against Duke, they were giving up yardage in chunks — allowing over six yards per play, more than their season average (5.4) — and couldn't slow Jones, Shaun Wilson (107 yards) on the ground.
They also didn't have an effective Trubisky to bail them out. During the first four wins of the season — Illinois, James Madison, Pitt and Florida State — he had a QB rating of no lower than 194.7. But Trubisky's 166.2 rating against the rival Blue Devils was his lowest in any game in which he's thrown more than two TD passes. The only other game in which he threw two picks was in the loss to the Hokies.
The QB's final mistake Thursday is the one that rang the loudest, as Saxton hauled in the offering near midfield with 1:02 to play, and it only led to more ringing.
The bell isn't leaving Durham, and neither are the Tar Heels' Coastal hopes.
Follow Cory McCartney on Twitter @coryjmccartney and Facebook. His book, 'Tales from the Atlanta Braves Dugout: A Collection of the Greatest Braves Stories Ever Told,' is out now, and 'The Heisman Trophy: The Story of an American Icon and Its Winners' will be released Nov. 22, 2016.
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