Blocked PAT helps UNC past Duke in Bunting's final game

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) -- Brandon Tate returned a punt 54 yards for the go-ahead touchdown and Kentwan Balmer blocked an extra point that would have forced overtime Saturday, giving North Carolina a 45-44 victory over Duke in John Bunting's final game as the Tar Heels' coach.

The Blue Devils nearly rallied from a 14-point deficit by scoring two touchdowns in the final 5 minutes, the second coming when defensive lineman Patrick Bailey intercepted Joe Dailey and returned it 21 yards for a touchdown with 2:49 to play.

But Balmer burst through the middle and blocked Randy DeSmyter's extra-point attempt, and the Tar Heels recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock to close Bunting's tenure at his alma mater with two straight victories over rivals North Carolina State and Duke.

Tate also returned a kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and became the third player in school history to score on punt and kickoff returns in the same game for the Tar Heels (3-9, 2-6 Atlantic Coast Conference).

Dailey finished 20-of-31 for a season-high 253 yards with two long touchdowns for the Tar Heels.

Duke's Thad Lewis threw three of his career-high four touchdown passes to Tielor Robinson, and the two also hooked up on a two-point conversion attempt which tied it at 31-all with 1:21 left in the third quarter.

After the teams traded punts, Tate took Alex Feinberg's punt at the 46 and sprinted untouched through the Blue Devils' coverage unit with 12:53 to play for his first career TD on a punt return.

Bunting was fired Oct. 22 but was kept on to finish the season. Butch Davis officially takes over Monday.

The teams combined for 847 total yards and the 89 combined points were the second-highest total ever in the 93 meetings between Tobacco Road rivals.

Dailey had scoring passes covering 39 yards to Brooks Foster and 83 yards to Hakeem Nicks, and surpassed his previous best performance of the season, a 234-yard effort in the opener against Rutgers.

Lewis was 20-of-35 for 285 yards with touchdowns covering 20 yards to Nick Stefanow and 5, 3 and 3 yards to Robinson for the Blue Devils (0-12, 0-8), who lost their 20th straight game and haven't beaten a I-A team in more than two years.

Tate's long kickoff return came with 17 seconds left in the first half and put the Tar Heels up 24-23 at the break.


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