CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) — For the second straight year, Drake Maye pushed No. 24 North Carolina with just enough in the clutch to beat rival Duke.
And if this was his final home game, the Tar Heels’ star quarterback got an unforgettable send-off.
Maye pushed the Tar Heels to one final lead before UNC stopped Duke’s 2-point conversion attempt to tie the game in the second overtime, sending the No. 24 Tar Heels to a 47-45 win against the rival Blue Devils in a thriller Saturday night.
Duke’s Grayson Loftis couldn’t connect with Jalon Calhoun in the back of the end zone, capping a game with a combined 39 fourth-quarter points before extra periods. It ended with UNC players spilling onto the field from the sideline — followed closely by fans pouring out of the stands in pursuit — to celebrate in their home finale.
“This will be one they remember for the rest of their lives on Senior Night,” UNC coach Mack Brown said.
Maye was at the center of it once more, from directing an overtime-forcing drive in the fleeting seconds of regulation to his go-ahead score.
“I think he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Brown said, adding: “He never even flinched.”
Maye ran around the right side, turned through hits near the goal line and extended the ball for a 5-yard touchdown. Then he made a play on the fly for the conversion, one of the intangibles to go with his size, arm and mobility that has made him an NFL prospect.
He looked right with three receivers lined up against two defenders, then broke that off to run for the end zone because he thought a Duke defender was baiting him to make a throw. But as Duke’s defense converged, he tossed the ball ahead to John Copenhaver for the 47-39 lead.
He admitted there was some “back yard” in the play, like with his left-handed TD throw at Pittsburgh in September.
“I was trying to keep my head up,” Maye said. “I feel like that’s one of my best attributes … Just try to get extra yards and try not to have negative plays.”
Loftis threw for 189 yards and three touchdowns as he continued leading Duke’s attack with starter Riley Leonard sidelined by a lower-body injury. Jordan Moore had all three of those scoring catches, including a fourth-down 30-yard grab from Loftis that pushed Duke to a 36-33 lead with 41 seconds left in regulation.
Loftis got the Blue Devils (6-4, 3-3) to answer by finding Moore over the middle for a 6-yard score, only to fall short on the tying conversion.
That sealed a fifth straight win against the Blue Devils, allowing the Tar Heels to keep the Victory Bell presented to the rivalry winner for another year. Worse for Duke, it marked a second straight heartbreaking loss in the rivalry, with UNC winning on a late touchdown pass by Maye last year.
“We knew we were going to have to just scratch and claw our way to stay in it, hang in it and hopefully give us a chance in the fourth quarter,” Duke coach Mike Elko said. “I thought we did that. Two years in a row, we just couldn’t stop that kid with the game on the line.”
Maye threw for 342 yards and a touchdown to go with two rushing scores in what Brown has said is likely his last home game as a high NFL prospect, though the third-year passer hasn’t publicly committed to a decision.
Omarion Hampton powered the Tar Heels’ offense all night, running for 169 yards and a touchdown on a career-high 31 carries. UNC also got a huge game from receiver Devontez “Tez” Walker, who had seven catches for a career-high 162 yards.
The Tar Heels finished with a 537-379 edge in total offense.
Duke: The Blue Devils found themselves struggling to match UNC’s offensive production, though they capitalized on their opportunities and the Tar Heels’ mistakes — then pounced in the fourth to come oh-so-close to ending their losing streak in the rivalry.
“I’m proud of how we rallied in the fourth quarter,” Elko said. “This one stings.”
UNC: The Tar Heels stood at No. 10 in the AP Top 25 during a 6-0 start before blowing double-digit leads after halftime in losses to Virginia and Georgia Tech. They did it again here, but still managed to land the last punches in a rivalry throwdown.
UNC had special-teams struggles, including a muffed kickoff return pinning UNC at its own 1-yard line before Maye threw his only interception to set up a Duke TD. The Blue Devils also recovered an onside kick while running off 15 straight points to erase a 12-point deficit in the fourth quarter.
But there was at least one bright spot there for UNC: Noah Burnette kicked six field goals to tie a program record, including a 43-yarder to end regulation. It came roughly a year after Burnette missed a 35-yarder to end a double-overtime home loss to North Carolina State.
“He’s made some timely kicks and has just handled himself really, really well,” linebacker Cedric Gray said.
UNC could see a bump when the next AP Top 25 is released Sunday.
Duke: The Blue Devils visit Virginia next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels head to Clemson next Saturday.