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Be a fan again: a Tobacco Road rivalry - UNC vs Wake Forest

Friday the 13th takes on a different theme as the game between the University of North Carolina Tar Heels (2-0, 1-0) take on the Wake Forest University Demon Deacons (2-0, 0-0). As the 131 year football rivalry adds another chapter, the two schools are situated about 1 hour and 15 minutes apart from each other. And not just the obvious (as it is Friday, the 13th), but the following makes this game one full of intrigue and a different energy:

1. The two schools played the first-ever college football game in the state of North Carolina (1888), with Wake Forest coming up with a 6-4 win.

2. This is the first meeting between the two teams since 2015; prior to conference expansion, the schools met every year from 1944-2004.

3. This game is scheduled as a non-conference game; otherwise, the two schools would not play each other in football until 2023.

4. This is the first time both teams compete against each other with undefeated records and two or more victories in the entire time of the rivalry.

5. Sage Surratt, one of Wake's leading receivers, is competing against one of Carolina's leading linebackers, Chazz Surratt, who happens to be his brother.

Stats-wise, Wake's offense is putting up nearly 40 points per game (39.5) and with a passing attack averaging more than 350 yards per game, is clearly on a roll. However, the Tar Heels' defense is at the forefront of their attack, as their ability to keep teams in check result in an average margin of victory (against South Carolina and Miami) of 4.5 points per game (they give up 22.5 per game, including holding teams to 379 total yards per game), so something has to give.

Then there's the return of Mack Brown as the head coach of the Tar Heels. His success in the mid-90's prior to being the head coach at Texas results in the team being a consistent presence towards the top of the conference standings and beyond.

And of course, the game is nationally televised on ESPN.

First half (North Carolina Tar Heels vs Wake Forest University Demon Deacons)

On the opening possession of the game for UNC, Wake's defense rises to the occasion, including a sack of true freshman Sam Howell. In fact, for most of the first quarter, the defenses for both teams are able to hold each other at bay. At the 3:30 mark of the first quarter, the Deacs' defense comes up with the first turnover of the game as cornerback Nasir Greer jars the football loose from Tar Heels' running back Javonte Williams (after Williams breaks free for a 17-yard gain). A two-play scoring drive setup by a 15-yard run by Kenneth Walker (RB) sets up a 5-yard touchdown run by Jamie Newman (QB) for an early 7-0 advantage for the Deacs.

After another stand by the defense toward the end of the quarter, Surratt (WR) makes a difficult 41-yard reception to get the Wake offense back into UNC territory. Walker makes a 21-yard run to put the Deacons into the red zone, and to open the 2nd quarter, Newman bulldozes the Tar Heels' defensive line, including knocking the helmet off linebacker Chazz Surratt, to score another touchdown and add to the Wake lead (14-0).

The Deacons continue their second quarter surge thanks to a 51-yard touchdown connection between Newman and Sage Surratt to push the lead to 21-0 (which puts him over 100 receiving yards in the first half, his 4th career 100 yard game). At the 11:22 mark of the quarter, the Tar Heels' offense get their first 1st down of the game; however, the defensive pressure results in a drive-ending sack by Wake's Carlos Basham (one of 4 first-half sacks by the defense). The Wake offense responds with a key 28-yard reception by Surratt on a 3rd and 13. However, the Tar Heels' defense is able to thwart a 4th and 1 effort from Wake (at the UNC 6-yard line).

Tar Heels' redshirt freshman Jace Ruder enters (QB) the game at the 5:56 mark of the 2nd quarter. After a false-start, he is able to pickup 22 yards on a QB keeper to give the team more operating room. However, the Wake defense comes up with yet another stop (as UNC amasses 67 total yards of offense in the first half) to maintain a 21-0 advantage at the half.

Second half (North Carolina Tar Heels vs Wake Forest University Demon Deacons)

The Tar Heels reinsert Sam Howell at quarterback after an early defensive stop on Wake's opening possession of the quarter/half, but as is the case in the first half, the Deacons' defense contains the offense, adding another sack (their 5th of the game). At the 5:42 mark, the Tar Heels' defense forces an overthrow by Newman, resulting in an interception (the team's first turnover of the game).

Howell sparks the offense on the ensuing drive, including a key 3rd down conversation (32-yard reception to wide receiver Dazz Newsome) late in the quarter, the team's first such conversation of the game. After a 4th and 2 conversion (on a 3-yard run by running back Javonte Williams) puts the Heels deep in Wake's territory, the Deacon defense comes up with their 6th sack of the game. However, a 49-yard field goal by Noah Ruggles at the 0:41 mark of the quarter finally gets the Heels on the scoreboard (trailing 21-3).

At the 11:22 mark, a 55-yard strike from Howell to Dyami Brown (WR) gets UNC knocking on the door for a potential scoring opportunity (at the Wake 14-yard line). Wake's defense responds by holding Howell to a one-yard gain and a swarming defense on an attempted end-around play, leading to a critical 3rd and 7. However, Howell makes a on-target throw to running back Michael Carter for an 11-yard touchdown pass, cutting the lead to 21-10.

A 50-yard run by Michael Carter gets UNC back in the Wake Forest red zone (at the 18-yard line). A 17-yard strike from Howell to Brown cuts the deficit to 21-16, and after adding a 2-point conversation closes the gap to a 3 point margin. Wake is able to eventually respond with a 32-yard field goal by Nick Sciba to make it a 24-18 game with 1:09 left.

With no timeouts remaining on their last drive, UNC's rally falls short as their rushing attempt near mid-field does not get them out of bounds in time. While the Tar Heels hold the Deacons to 3 second half points, the dominant first half is too much for them to overcome.

Basham's 2.5 sacks (the defense finishes with 6 sacks) and linebacker Justin Strnad's 15 total tackles (and one sack) pace the Deacons' defense, and solid rushing efforts by Walker (13 carries for 95 yards) and Newman (2 rushing touchdowns and 84 rushing yards), along with Surratt's 169 receiving yards, are at the forefront of the team's win. Howell's 2 passing touchdowns (182 passing yards) along with Trey Morrison's 12 total tackles lead the way for the UNC offense and defense respectively.

And another chapter in the rivalry with Wake Forest improving to 3-0 (0-0 in conference) with North Carolina falling to 2-1 (1-0 in conference).

Post-game (North Carolina Tar Heels vs Wake Forest University Demon Deacons)

Wake Forest head coach Dave Clawson commends the Tar Heels' effort, and notes a few keys to the game, including the team's first half success, as well as some challenges in the second half. Due to injuries to the starters, freshmen Trey Rucker and Zion Keith are pressed into action with some success as well as some things to continue to grow on (to listen to the interview, click HERE). Despite a few setbacks, the team is able to stay focused and persevere, an underlying theme to the team's success.

Jamie Newman (click HERE for his interview), Carlos Basham (click HERE for his interview), Nasir Greer (click HERE for his interview), and Ja'Sir Taylor (click HERE for his interview) provide post-game reflections on the team's performance. In looking at things that are done well, parts of their team game to build upon, and things to look forward to, the team is fully focused on weekly improvement and building upon their successful start to the season.

The team's next game is September 21st as they host Elon (12pm kickoff) for their homecoming game.

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