After getting punched in the mouth last week in Tallahassee, the Tar Heels had something to prove about where they belong in the landscape of this college football season. Most people openly opined that Carolina had had no business being in the top 5 before they got shellacked by the Seminoles, but the team bounced back in a big way against a 4-1 NC State team.
Like the recipe for success they’d used in every game they’d won this season, UNC started the game with a touchdown on their opening drive. Michael Carter took the ball in from 16 yards out for the first of many points in the game. Sam Howell followed that up with his first rushing touchdown of the season to put the Heels up 14-0 in the second quarter before State even got on the board in the final minute of the first half.
From there, it was mostly all Carolina. They got a field goal from Grayson Atkins to close out the first half before receiving the kick to start the second half. Josh Downs caught a 17-yard pass from Howell that made it 24-7. UNC scored three touchdowns in the third quarter and another in the fourth to put a cherry on top of the blowout.
The most significant difference in the game was the contrast between the teams’ ground games. The talented duo of Carter and Javonte Williams combined for four touchdowns and 266 of the team’s 326 total yards on the ground. State only picked up 34 rushing yards on the day. While the Wolfpack did have more success through the air (358 yards to 252 yards) it ultimately didn’t matter in the results. Bailey Hockman struggled to get anything going. He was replaced by Ben Finley before coming back in and finishing the game out.
Wide receiver Beau Corrales was injured, leaving the lion’s share of the passes to Dyami Brown. Brown was responsible for 105 yards but no touchdowns. Dazz Newsome caught one pass for 14 yards but was otherwise not a factor in the receiving game. Emery Simmons caught five passes for 38 yards in an expanded role with Corrales on the sideline.
One of the best plays of the game came when Don Chapman Jr. intercepted a pass in the end zone that looked destined for an easy touchdown. The State receiver bobbled it just enough that Chapman not giving up on the play allowed him to be in the right place at the right time. That kind of hustle is always appreciated, and it turned into one of the standout moments for the defense. The offense couldn’t turn it into points, but it definitely shouldn’t be forgotten in the bigger picture of the game.
Both teams came into today’s game feeling like they had something to prove. Unequivocally, Carolina accomplished that goal. You can certainly argue that their previous ranking was inflated, but they definitely belong in the conversation as we move into the thick of this season.
The Heels will try to ride the momentum into next week’s game against Virginia on the road in Charlottesville.