College Football: UNC 28, Duke 20

Published 12:00 am Saturday, November 29, 2008

By Joedy McCreary
Associated Press
DURHAM ó T.J. Yates finally won again as a starter, thanks to the defensive back who has become North Carolina’s top finisher.
Yates was nearly perfect in throwing three touchdown passes, but the Tar Heels’ 28-20 victory over Duke on Saturday night wasn’t sealed until Trimane Goddard’s interception in the closing seconds.
Shaun Draughn rushed for 110 yards and a touchdown and caught another score from Yates. North Carolina (8-4, 4-4 Atlantic Coast Conference) snapped a two-game losing streak and clinched its first eight-win regular season since 1997 by beating the Blue Devils (4-8, 1-7) for the 18th time in 19 years.
“We needed some momentum, we needed some lift within the team to get this energy back going into the bowl game,” Yates said.
Thaddeus Lewis led Duke into the red zone in the final minute before his fourth-down pass went straight to Goddard at the 4.
“Right in my left shoulder pad,” said Goddard, who has developed a knack for these kinds of late-game heroics after saving the win at Miami with an interception on the final play.
“I had confidence that they weren’t going to score ó we were going to stop them,” he added.
Yates completed 15 of his first 16 passes and finished 15-of-19 for 190 yards with scoring passes covering 11 yards to Draughn, 25 yards to Hakeem Nicks and 32 yards to Richard Quinn. He won as the starter for the first time since Sept. 11 at Rutgers after missing five games with a broken left ankle suffered a week later against Virginia Tech.
“Starting off the game with some quick, little throws to get things going, I think that helped me get comfortable,” Yates said.
Lewis finished 34-of-49 for 278 yards with an 8-yard touchdown pass to Eron Riley. Vincent Rey returned a fumble 36 yards for a score for Duke, which ended David Cutcliffe’s first season with five straight losses after starting 4-3.
“Like (Cutcliffe) said, ‘Coming close is not acceptable here at Duke any longer,”‘ linebacker Michael Tauiliili said.
The Blue Devils have lost five straight in the rivalry for the Victory Bell, the rolling trophy that is annually spray-painted with the winning team’s shade of blue, though the last four meetings have been decided by a total of 18 points.
One possession after Duke made it a one-point game, Yates helped the Tar Heels retain the rivalry’s prize when he rolled right and hit a wide-open Quinn in stride. The tight end rumbled ó and then spun ó into the end zone with 1:16 left in the third.
North Carolina ó which was favored by a touchdown ó didn’t take its first lead until late in the second quarter, when Yates put the Tar Heels up 21-14 with a deep ball to Nicks.
The receiver pulled in the ball behind Glenn Williams near the back of the end zone for his school record-tying ninth touchdown catch. Nicks finished with three catches for 38 yards and became the school’s first player with 1,000 yards receiving in a season.
Duke closed to 21-17 at halftime on Joe Surgan’s career-long 55-yard field goal on the final play, then made it 21-20 on Nick Maggio’s 27-yard kick on the first series of the second half.
Rey’s big play came early in the first quarter when Draughn couldn’t grasp a handoff and the Duke linebacker snatched it out of midair and dashed through the North Carolina offense for his second score off a fumble this season.