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UNC clinches ACC Coastal title with win over Wake Forest

Drake Maye led the Tar Heels to the final Coastal title ever.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Wake Forest Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

UNC football’s game against Wake Forest on Saturday night was almost exactly the same game we’ve seen the Tar Heels play multiple times this season. The offense roared out of the gate with a 14-0 start against a solid Wake Forest team. The lead got to 21-7 before the Demon Deacons put together consecutive touchdown drives to tie it. UNC inched ahead before the half, fell behind, and rode their extremely talented offense to a win. This time it came with locking up the ACC Coastal title and a trip to Charlotte for a date with Clemson.

Wake held a 34-33 lead into the fourth quarter after a missed extra point and failed two-point conversion left the Tar Heels down a point. The two teams traded the lead back and forth several times after it was tied 21-21 with Wake Forest pulling ahead with 4:26 left in the third quarter on a Sam Hartman 60-yard touchdown throw. Both teams’ offenses were quiet throughout the fourth quarter, and it looked like the Demon Deacons were going to be able to run clock and salt away the game with a one-point lead.

Cam’ron Kelly jumped a route and picked off Hartman with 5:47 left in the game to give the Tar Heels a chance. Carolina’s offense sputtered in the red zone and they had to settle for a 33-yard field goal by Noah Burnette with 2:12 left on the clock. The defense was needed to make one more stop to really seal the game and they got Wake to turn it over on downs.

We are running out of superlatives to talk about Drake Maye. He was excellent, as he has been all season, throwing for 448 yards and three touchdowns, zero interceptions, while running for 71 yards and another score. His favorite target, Josh Downs, made Wake Forest miserable all night to the tune of 154 yards and three touchdowns. Elijah Green also got in on the scoring with 66 yards and a touchdown. In all, the Tar Heels put up 584 yards of total offense against the Demon Deacons.

If Maye were on any other team, I truly believe he’d be leading the conversation for Heisman. He is right at the front of reasons why the Tar Heels were able to take home the Coastal title, and why one could believe that UNC will have an actual chance at winning the ACC Championship game in Charlotte. The fact that we get him in Chapel Hill beyond this year is certainly exciting, but the kid has earned his flowers and isn’t getting nearly as much recognition as he deserves.

As much as we have ragged on the defense forcing the offense to be other-worldly in order to win this season, they stepped up last night when they needed to. Without the Kelly interception, there’s a very real chance that UNC is shut out in the fourth quarter and comes up just shy of the win. Part of being fair is giving credit where it is due, and the defense kept the game from spiraling out of control when it looked like they didn’t have an answer for Hartman.

UNC welcomes Georgia Tech to Chapel Hill next Saturday at 5:30 pm.