The result was disappointing. The last three minutes were horrifying. But Carolina had a lot of bright lights that made picking a player of the game more than a mere formality.
Tomon Fox had 2.5 sacks at crucial moments.
Jeremiah Gemmel had 10 tackles, started NC State’s opening drive of the second half with a shared sack, then a strip of Ricky Person (recovered by Cedric Gray).
British Brooks came in to spell Ty Chandler and simply took over, rushing 15 times for 124 yards. He added a tackle during a kick-off for good measure.
But when you look at the totality of the effort that it took to overcome the initial 14-0 deficit to take the lead, and control of the game into the fourth quarter, the plaudits mostly fall on Sam Howell.
Returning from injury after missing Senior Day against Wofford, Howell looked a bit stuck in the first quarter as the Wolfpack came out with their hair on fire, and receivers couldn’t get separation. When UNC calmed down and handled pressure better, Howell found both room to run and fit throws.
Howell’s numbers do not jump off the box score like in games past. He rushed 18 times for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
He also threw a touchdown to Justin Olson and did *enough* to throw two additional scores to Antoine Green. Alas.
Howell even slid intelligently during the drive that put the Heels up nine and in pole position to win their third straight game against NC State. Alas.
If this is Sam Howell’s last game in a Carolina jersey, he was a credit to himself and the program. He took some extracurricular hits from a Wolfpack defense eager to test his health, but stayed in the game and remained effective. He did everything he could to set UNC up for a big win, but could do nothing to help defend Emeka Emezie or recover the onside kick.
In the end, his best was just not good enough to drag this UNC team to a win it deserved.