The outcome of Saturday’s game against Mercer was never in doubt, but that didn’t make the touchdown parade any less entertaining. With a nation-leading nine one-possession games this year, a good old-fashioned beatdown was exactly what the fans, players, and coaches needed before they travel to Raleigh next weekend. So, to get this Thanksgiving Week started off on the right foot, we’ve compiled all eight of UNC’s touchdowns from Saturday.
A few quick notes:
- North Carolina’s entered the season with four rushing touchdowns through their first 10 games. They had five on Saturday.
- Emery Simmons and British Brooks both found the end zone for the first time in their Tar Heel careers.
- UNC was 4-4 in the red zone. Level of competition be damned, progress is progress.
- Sam Howell broke a couple of records. He’s very good at footballing.
Antonio Williams got the festivities started with this run, as he waltzed untouched into the end zone. The senior has been hampered by injuries throughout the year, but looked healthy and spry all afternoon. That’s a positive development for next week’s game against the Wolfpack.
Michael Carter finally found the end zone via the ground. His first rushing touchdown of the year put the Heels up 14-0. Similar to Williams’ TD, Carter bounced out to the left side before displaying his trademark speed and forced his way into the end zone. The route was on.
Sam Howell got into the action with his 30th touchdown pass of the year. Dyami Brown was on the receiving end — his 10th of the year. The pass tied Howell with Mitch Trubisky for most touchdown passes in a single season at UNC. The catch gave Brown the most receiving touchdowns in a season since Quinshad Davis had 10 in 2013.
Jake Bargas picked up UNC’s fourth score of the day, and was the receiver on Howell’s 31st touchdown of the season. This play gave Howell the all-time single season record for touchdown passes at UNC. A play-action roll-out with a tight end drag across the back of the end zone was also nice to see. If only that play could was available against Clemson. Or Virginia Tech. Or Virginia. Or Pittsburgh. But hey, better late than never. Or something.
A record-breaking pass deserves two angles. You can see Bargas lineup to the left of the formation, and begin his break once he got into the secondary. Good patience and timing form both him and Howell.
Howell hit freshman wide receiver Emery Simmons in stride on this bomb. This was Howell’s third pass of the day and 32nd of the season. This pass gave him the FBS record for most passing touchdowns by a true freshman in a single season. Florida State’s Jameis Winston, was a redshirt freshman at the time, holds the overall freshman record with 40. This was also Simmons’ first career touchdown. We have a pretty good feeling these two will hook up a few more times over the next two years.
(P.S. Folks, these kinds of plays are what UNC will be capable of as the offensive line matures and develops into next season.)
Michael Carter added his second rushing touchdown of the day (and season), on this nine-yard scamper. This gave UNC a 42-0 lead as they headed into halftime. Like Antonio Williams’ earlier run, Carter was untouched as he (again) bounced out to the left and around the edge.
Carter completed his hat trick on his first touch after halftime. Yet again, nobody laid a finger on him. He finished the day with 9 carries, 159 yards, and 3 touchdowns. It doesn’t matter who the competition was, that’s a great, confidence-boosting performance. He’s been explosive all year long, but has been unfortunate not to find the end zone earlier.
Sophomore walk-on running back British Brooks finished the Heels’ scoring with his first career touchdown. Keeping with the theme of the day, he also made it to the end zone without anyone making contact. This was UNC’s fifth rushing touchdown on the day. They entered the day with only four rushing touchdowns on the season. This put the Heels ahead 56-0. The damage complete, they never threatened to score again.
All in all, it was a perfect day. The Heels got the win, starters were able to rest and the second and third-string finally got some burn. The win puts the Heels at 5-6 as they travel to Raleigh next week, hoping to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2016.