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UNC 65, Western Carolina 10: Heels get the blowout victory over the Catamounts

A huge second quarter propels the Tar Heels to the Senior Day victory.

NCAA Football: Western Carolina at North Carolina Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

It was Senior Day on Saturday as the North Carolina (3-8) football team hosted the Western Carolina Catamounts (7-5) in the team’s last home game of the season. UNC came into the game looking to accomplish two things they had not done all year: win a game at Kenan Stadium and win two games in a row.

Coach Fedora’s team used a strong second quarter on both offense and defense, outscoring the Catamounts 35-0, to blow the game wide open in the 65-10 victory. In the second quarter, Nathan Elliott threw three touchdown passes (two to Josh Cabrera), Jordon Brown had a touchdown run, and Jonathan Smith scored on a fumble recovery.

Before the game, North Carolina recognized and honored 14 seniors, three graduate transfers, and three redshirt juniors who were all playing their last game in Chapel Hill. In what was a surprise to many fans, Austin Proehl suited up (and started) after he suffered what many thought was a season-ending collarbone injury earlier in the season.

On a windy afternoon, a poor punt by Hunter Lent midway through the first quarter set up good field position and the first scoring drive for Western Carolina. After converting on third and long, that got the Catamounts into the red zone, quarterback Tyrie Adams found Connell Young open in the end zone to put WCU up 7-0 (UNC would outscore WCU 65-3 the rest of the way). The Tar Heels responded quickly and tied it up at 7-7 with a 61-yard scoring drive, in which Nathan Elliott found Anthony Ratliff-Williams wide open in the middle of the field for a 15-yard touchdown.

In the second quarter, the Tar Heels’ offense and defense would turn it up to eleven and take a commanding lead. After the Carolina defense forced a punt, Elliott and Michael Carter would lead the Tar Heels on an 88-yard scoring drive to go up 14-7 early in the second quarter. Carter had 36 rushing yards on the drive, while Josh Cabrera would be on the receiving end of the 16-yard touchdown pass from Elliott.

The offense would continue rolling, as they scored on the very next drive to go up 21-7. Elliott threw his third touchdown pass of the half with a 6-yard strike to Brandon Fritts. UNC would go up 28-7 on the very next play, as Jonathan Smith (who was in for the injured Cole Holcomb) picked up and returned Adams’ fumble for a touchdown.

North Carolina would go into the half up 42-7, after scoring on six consecutive drives. Elliott threw for 211 yards and the Tar Heel running backs (Carter and Brown) had 131 rushing yards in the first half.

The UNC defense was just as impressive and dominant as the offense in helping to stretch the lead out. They limited Western Carolina to only 32 yards of offense and forced four punts and the one turnover in keeping the Catamounts scoreless in the second quarter.

Beau Corrales and Carter both added touchdowns in the second half to further put the game out of hand. Carter had a four-yard touchdown run to go along with his 103 total rushing yards, while Corrales was on the receiving end of a 44-yard pass from Chazz Surratt. Surratt would also score on a 59-yard rushing touchdown, which was UNC’s longest play from scrimmage this season, late in the fourth quarter.

The Tar Heels would finish the game with 611 total yards of offense (298 passing yards, 313 rushing yards), as the coaching staff used a balanced attack in the victory. Elliott finished the game with 240 passing yards and four touchdown passes, Ratliff-Williams led all receivers with 88 yards, while Proehl added 52 yards in his first game back after the injury.

The Carolina defense limited the Catamounts to only 304 yards of total offense. Smith led the defense with 11 total tackles, while Jalen Dalton had the only sack for the Tar Heels.

Leading the way for Western Carolina were Ray Smith with 89 yards passing and Detrez Newsome with 107 rushing yards. Newsome also led all Catamount receivers with seven receptions and 48 receiving yards.

After back-to-back victories, the Tar Heels will close out the season next Saturday in Raleigh against N.C. State. UNC will look to use the momentum from their last two wins in hopes of upsetting the top 25 ranked Wolfpack.