In shades of the game in Chapel Hill two years ago, Carolina was steamrolled by State for the first 45 minutes of game time on Saturday. Entering the fourth quarter down 28-7 Carolina finally showed signs of life to try to stage a late comeback. The Heels were able to score two touchdowns in the first half of the fourth period but were undone on their final drive. Carolina had a tough holding penalty to push them back and quarterback Mitch Trubisky missed two throws by just enough to have the Heels fail to pick up the first down on both 3rd and 4th and 20. The Wolfpack took over and picked up a first down to then be able to ice the game and take a 28-21 win back to Raleigh.
The first half was one to forget for the Tar Heels. After a promising first drive ended in a sack that forced a punt, the Wolfpack took over the line of scrimmage. State’s offensive line blasted the Heels off the ball throughout the first half while their defensive front collapsed the pocket on Trubisky when the Heels had the ball. The Wolfpack came out of the gate fired up and ready to go. State pulled out multiple trick plays in the first half, remaining poised on offense the entire first 30 minutes. Lead by star running back Matt Dayes, the Pack systematically worked the ball up and down the field against a relatively porous Tar Heel defense. Carolina played much like they did two years ago in Chapel Hill en route to a 21-0 deficit in the second quarter.
The Heels staged a small rally in the second quarter. Carolina forced a fumble which they followed with a 33 second touchdown drive for their only points in the half. Carolina got a bit of luck at the end of the second quarter when State missed a 26 yard field goal to make sure that the teams went into the locker room 21-7.
The Heels started the second half with a surprise onside kick but it was the most fire that the Heels showed for the entire third quarter. The kick itself was called back for an illegal block and State took the ensuing possession all the way down for a touchdown to go up 28-7. The Heels and Pack played to a stalemate for the rest of the third quarter with Carolina coming up short on fourth and 2 in the red zone on their best chance of the period.
The Heels started the fourth quarter with renewed focus. Mitch Trubisky found Ryan Switzer on a prayer on 3rd and 26 to start the quarter with a 45 yard gain. The Heels punched it in three plays later to cut the score to 28-14.
On the ensuing State possession the Heels were able to force the Wolfpack off the field after a third down sack forced State to punt. The Heels took over on the 38 yardline and immediately faced a do or die situation with a conversion on a fourth and 3. On the very next play Trubisky found Bug Howard deep for a 48 yard touchdown pass to cut the deficit to 7 points.
Carolina forced the Wolfpack to go three and out on their next possession and the Heels got the ball back with just under seven minutes to go in the game down a touchdown. The Heels moved the ball on their ensuing drive but failed to pick up a 4th and 20. Carolina never got another chance. State forced the Heels to burn through their timeouts, and the Wolfpack then picked up a first down—all they needed to win the game.
Mitch Trubisky: 23-38 for 280 yards and 3 touchdowns, 9 carries for 55 yards
Ryan Switzer: 13 catches for 171 yards and 1 touchdown
Bug Howard: 3 catches for 58 yards and 1 touchdown
Elijah Hood: 11 carries for 56 yards