In the pantheon of aggressive red zone calls in the final minute of a game, a trick play resulting in a jump pass from a running back is certainly up there. It just didn’t work out for Duke this time.
Facing their greatest rival in UNC on Saturday, the Blue Devils found themselves down 17-20 and at the Tar Heels’ 2-yard line with first-and-goal and 18 seconds left. A field goal would force overtime, a touchdown would win the game.
Jackson took a hit from unblocked UNC defensive back D.J. Ford and the resulting pass went straight to linebacker Chazz Surratt, who intercepted it and ended the game.
The play might have been nifty in practice, but it was disastrous against a stacked UNC box that seemed too committed to taking away the middle of the end zone. A total of four unblocked Tar Heel defenders surrounded tight end Noah Gray, the intended receiver, as Jackson released the pass.
Going beyond the shame of a loss in the heated Tobacco Road rivalry, the loss also costs Duke big time in a wide-open ACC Coastal division. Rather than tie with Virginia for first place at a 3-2 conference record, it is now UNC in first at 3-2. Duke now sits at 2-3 with losses against both teams tied for first place.
As for UNC, a home game against Virginia next week has become all the more important, with first place in the division on the line.
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