Duke head coach David Cutcliffe receieved a bowl-clinching Gatorade bath 17 years in the making. Credit: CHUCK LIDDY
Duke (6-2, 3-1 in the ACC, first in the Coastal Division)
"Sneed was on fire. He was possessed, the way he played tonight," Cutcliffe said. "He was knifing, and he’s more physical than people think."
Duke freshman kicker Ross Martin was also 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, connecting from 20, 28, 30 and 43 yards. Martin is 14-for-15 on the year, with his only miss coming in the season-opener against FIU. For a team that has long been plagued by special teams miscues, the value of his stability is immeasurable.
Defensively, Duke was able to virtually eliminate any passing attack the Tar Heels attempted during the first three quarters, as starting quarterback Bryn Renner was 10-of-19 for 36 yards. And while Gio Bernard did gain 143 rushing yards that was significantly lower than the 219.5 he had averaged over the past two weeks in victories over Virginia Tech and Miami.
What needs work: Ideally Duke doesn't let UNC score three touchdowns during a 21-0 run in the fourth quarter. If the Blue Devils, who are currently in first place in the Coastal Division, want to make their dreams of playing in the ACC Championship game in Charlotte a reality, they will need to tighten up in upcoming games against the physically superior Florida State and Clemson squads.
What's next: No. 11 Florida State awaits Duke in Tallahassee. So far this year, the Blue Devils have vanquished two long losing streaks—the 12-game slide against Wake Forest and the 8-game skid against the Tar Heels. In fact, this is only the third time since 1970 that Duke has beaten its two annual in-state opponents and first since 1989 (1982 was the only other season). But the reality is that the Blue Devils have never beaten the Seminoles and are 0-17 all-time against FSU. That matches the longest conference losing streak in ACC history, as Virginia beat Wake Forest every year between 1984-2000.
The epitaph: "It’s a huge burden off our shoulders, I’ll tell you that. Every year we’ve talked about going to a bowl game, and every year we didn’t reach that goal. This year we have met the goal, and we still have four or five games left to play." —Duke cornerback Ross Cockrell