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UNC vs. Notre Dame: Player of the Game - Sam Howell

Carolina’s all-time best quarterback had his best game of the season in a tough loss to Notre Dame

North Carolina v Notre Dame Photo by Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Here’s what Sam Howell did last night in South Bend:

  • Led the team in rushing with 101 yards on 18 attempts, with a patented pinball touchdown run.
  • Threw for 341 yards on 24/31 passing, with a beautiful touchdown to Antoine Green.
  • Overtook T.J. Yates to become Carolina’s leading passer in school history (9,419 yards).
  • Addressed some early season concerns about fixating on Josh Downs. Howell hit seven other receivers, including freshmen J.J. Jones and tight end Bryson Nesbit.

Here’s what Sam Howell could not do last night:

  • Overcome a terrible defensive effort to pull off the upset win over Notre Dame.

Take a look at him.

Howell put every ounce of his being into this game. Back when he had Javonte Williams, Michael Carter, Dyami Brown, and Dazz Newsome to play with, this Notre Dame team would have been cooked. As it stood, he went to battle with a downgraded supporting cast, but still made plays for them and himself.

Ty Chandler helped with patient running and a wonderful 53-yard touchdown run. But when the Tar Heels needed a crucial first down, Howell called his own number, usually with great effect.

Mack Brown challenged his team to step up under the bright lights in prime time. Howell, who began the season as a Heisman hopeful and possible first-round pick in the NFL Draft, took that task to heart, and kept the Heels within touching distance.

Questionable calls (including a critical pass interference call on Don Chapman that left Mike Tirico and Drew Brees on the NBC broadcast scratching their heads) didn’t help, but Carolina penalties, both real and imagined, combined with poor defense were too much to overcome.

If Howell can continue playing like he did last night, he’ll have a puncher’s chance at piling enough points for UNC to beat Wake Forest at home, and maybe Pitt away next Thursday night. It’ll take everything he has to keep Carolina bowl eligible.