Gridiron notes on season-openers for Duke, UNC, and N.C. State

Peter Koutroumpis, Triangle Sports Network
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RALEIGH, N.C. – Game one of the college football season is in the books for each of the Duke Blue Devils, North Carolina Tar Heels, and the N.C. State Wolfpack.

Coming out of Saturday’s matchups, the Blue Devils were the only ones who posted a win.

“You have to like when you start fast,” Duke head coach David Cutcliffe said.

“I thought we were really good from the opening kickoff and the entire first half. We didn’t have the frustration to make it a ball game. We played well enough, got a big lead and that was huge. We really were organized and executed well.”

Albeit Duke’s triumph, a 60-7 throttling of crosstown of an N.C. Central squad, didn’t present the same challenge that faced UNC in its 35-30 loss to Pac12 opponent Cal, nor the Wolfpack’s gut-wrenching 35-28 shortfall against SEC foe South Carolina.

Both losses came despite UNC and N.C. State having the game within their grasp at some point before faltering later.

The Tar Heels carried a 24-21 lead heading into the fourth quarter, while N.C. State was tied 21-21 at halftime.

“We didn’t win the football game, but it wasn’t because of the effort on the field,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said.

“The guys played extremely hard throughout the entire game in every phase. The problems were we made too many mistakes. You cannot win games like that or any game like it when you make that many mistakes and that was on both sides of the ball. There were just too many opportunities that we gave up on both sides of the ball to be effective and win a football game. That’s why we didn’t win it. Pretty simple.”

“The turnovers, there’s no excuse – there isn’t,” N.C. State head coach Dave Doeren said.

“It’s a skill set we work on every single day, and as a staff we need to look at how we’re coaching it. First thing at practice every day is a turnover circuit on both sides of the football, so it is something that is focused on.

“Bottom line is, when you lose a football game, it’s on me. I own it, and that’s our philosophy as a program – extreme ownership. Whatever we did, or didn’t do, we didn’t do it well enough to win.”

Offensive notes

From the snap, Duke’s Daniel Jones and N.C. State’s Ryan Finley played to expectations as starters, while the Tar Heels, without a decided No. 1, utilized a platooning game plan that had grad transfer Brandon Harris start with redshirt freshman Chazz Surratt coming in soon after.

Jones threw 25 passes without an interception, and extended his streak to 198 consecutive throws without a pick, the second-longest streak in Duke program history.

Finley set a new Wolfpack record with 45 completions, the fifth-most in ACC history, and also set a personal-best with 415 yards passing, the 11th-most in school history.

Harris led the first two drives before Surratt made his Tar Heel debut on the third drive of the game, and eventually completed 18-of-28 passes for 161 yards and one touchdown, and rushed 16 times for 66 yards and a touchdown.

UNC true freshman tailback Michael Carter finished with two touchdowns and ran for 94 yards on 11 carries in his collegiate debut.

Carter scored North Carolina’s first touchdown of the season, a rush in the first quarter, helping to gain 57 yards on three carries on the drive, including a 47-yard run down the sidelines.

N.C. State back Jaylen Samuels’ 15 receptions tied the school record for most catches in a single game, and one behind the ACC record of 16.

Duke redshirt sophomore wide receiver Aaron Young snagged a career-long 54-yard strike from Jones that went for a touchdown in the second quarter, and finished with a career-best five grabs for a personal-high 89 receiving yards.

Redshirt freshman running back Brittain Brown scored a touchdown on his second career carry for the Blue Devils, going 39 yards to the end zone, and finished the game with 10 carries for 120 yards.

Duke senior running back Shaun Wilson finished with 116 all-purpose yards, his seventh consecutive game with 100-plus in that category.

Defensive notes

Blue Devils senior cornerback Bryon Fields Jr. returned an interception 28 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter, his third career interception return for a score which tied him for the most in program history.

Sophomore defensive end Tre Hornbuckle recorded 3.5 tackles for lost yardage after having 2.5 in all of 2016 for Duke, while freshman defensive end Victor Dimukeje booked a team-best 1.5 sacks in his debut at Wallace Wade Stadium.

North Carolina linebacker Andre Smith made and returned a 73-­yard interception in the third quarter, the second of his career which gave the Tar Heels two INTs on the day.

Last year, UNC made one interception all season.

Rookie debuts

Ten true freshmen made their Duke debuts, surpassing the Cutcliffe-era record of nine in 2012.

Surratt and Carter, along with wide receiver Roscoe Johnson, and true freshmen linebacker Malik Robinson, and cornerback Tre Shaw all made their first appearances for the Tar Heels.

For the Wolfpack, Emeka Emezie (WR), Raven Sanders (ST), Joshua Fedd-Jackson (ST), and Chris Ingram (ST) all made their first collegiate plays to start the season.