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North Carolina outlasts Wake Forest: the Heels' 59-53 win snaps the Deacs' 4-game winning streak

Preview: Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-2, 3-2) vs North Carolina Tar Heels (5-2. 5-2)

The oldest college football rivalry in the state of North Carolina adds another chapter today (November 14, 2020).

Last year, Wake Forest wins (24-18) against North Carolina (click HERE to read on last season's game) as they dominated in the first half before the Heels would make a late run before running out of time. With last year's game likely on their minds, the Tar Heels are hoping to see what a difference a year makes.

Coming into today's game, the Demon Deacons are on a 4-game winning streak. With an offense averaging 37 points per game, solid play by quarterback Sam Hartman (1,253 passing yards, 4 touchdowns, and zero interceptions) is augmented by one of the top 1-2 running back combinations in the conference. Kenneth Walker III (528 rushing yards/averaging 5.0 yards per carry) comes into the game among the nation's leaders in rushing touchdowns (11), and his backfield mate, Christian Beal-Smith (472 rushing yards/averaging 5.2 yards per carry), set the tone for the ground game. Receivers Jaquarii Roberson (490 receiving yards with 2 touchdowns) and Donavon Green (averaging 19.3 yards per catch) lead a solid group, and the defense led by team captain and All-American defensive end Carlos "Boogie" Basham, Jr, team captain/defensive back Ja'Sir Taylor, and linebacker Ja'Cquez Williams are putting together an improved stretch, including allowing just 30 points in their past 2 games.

Touted as a potential challenger to the Clemson Tigers, the Tar Heels' offense is led by quarterback Sam Howell (2,081 passing yards, 17 touchdowns, and 5 interceptions). Their running game is led by one of the top tandems, as Javonte Williams (767 rushing yards/averaging 7.2 yards per carry, along with 14 touchdowns) and Michael Carter (733 rushing yards/averaging 73. yards per carry, along with 4 touchdowns) are among the nation's best combinations as the team is averaging just under 41 points per game (40.9). All-American candidate Chazz Surratt (linebacker) is a steady presence for the defense (with 4 sacks), as they have a 2-2 record in their past 4 games.

Conference post-season implications, a renewal of a rivalry, and seeing teams looking to either extend a streak (for the Deacs, 2 wins in a row against the Heels/5th in row) or start one (for the Heels, to win their second game in a row), all at high noon on Tobacco Road. Clearly, this has the makings of a classic showdown between two quality teams.

First Half: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs North Carolina Tar Heels

The Tar Heels start with the ball for the 1st quarter (and half). After punting the ball, the Deacs take their opening possession downfield in a little over 3 minutes. Key runs by Christian Beal-Smith and a pass interference penalty against the Tar Heels (on a 3rd and 4) setup Kenneth Walker III's 1-yard touchdown run to give them an early 7-0 lead (7:58 in the 1st quarter). North Carolina literally responds immediately, as quarterback Sam Howell's 75-yard pass to a sprinting Dazz Newsome ties the game 11 seconds later (7:47 in the 1st quarter). After a Wake punt, the Tar Heels take a 10-7 lead thanks to a Grayson Atkins 26-yard field goal.

Wake immediately responds with a 3-play scoring drive, capped off by a 40-yard touchdown pass by Sam Hartman to Jaquarii Roberson to retake the lead with 2:06 in the 1st quarter (14-10). Not to be outdone, North Carolina retakes the lead 1:37 later as Sam Howell's 23-yard touchdown pass to Dyami Brown gives them a 17-14 lead with 29 seconds left in the quarter.

Surely teams would settle down after the 1st quarter, wouldn't they?

Not really.

On the subsequent drive, Sam Hartman leads a 3-play drive, highlighted by 2 completions to Donavon Greene. His 38-yard reception gets Wake into Carolina territory, and the very next play, he seals the deal with a 17-yard touchdown reception to give the Deacs the lead (21-17) just 5 seconds into the 2nd quarter. And is the early case, the Tar Heels waste no time in responding, as Sam Howell completes another touchdown to Dazz Newsome (44 yards) to retake the lead with 12:45 left in the 2nd quarter (24-21). Not to be outdone, the Deacs score on their very next series; key plays by Greene (34-yard reception) and Taylor Morin (28-yard reception) setup a 1-yard run and fumble recovery by Hartman to retake the lead (28-24). After an alternating 3 possessions where both teams punt, Wake adds to their lead; Greene's 41-yard reception is a key play in the drive, and Kenneth Walker III's 1-yard touchdown gives them a 35-24 lead with 1:28 left in the 2nd quarter/half. An interception by Ja'Sir Taylor thrwarts a response by the Tar Heels to give the Deacs an 11 point lead at the half.

Second Half: Wake Forest Demon Deacons vs North Carolina Tar Heels

Given the offensive fireworks of the first half, it's a premium on making the most of each possession.

Starting with the ball in the 3rd quarter/2nd half, a field goal by Nick Sciba at the 12:30 mark adds to the Wake lead (38-24). After the Deacons' defense forces a 3-and-out, Sam Hartman's 18-yard touchdown pass to Donavon Greene gives them the biggest lead for either team (45-24).

However, the Tar Heels respond with a run of their own. It starts as a little over 2 minutes later (4:43 ), Sam Howell concludes the drive with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Dyami Brown, making it a 45-31 game. After a series of punts by both teams, North Carolina resumes their run as a 46-yard yard touchdown pass by Sam Howell to Michael Carter just 9 seconds into the 4th quarter reduces the Deacs' lead to 7 points (45-38). After the Tar Heels defense forces a punt, Howell adds another touchdown pass, as Garrett Walston's 10-yard reception makes it a 45-45 game with 8:19 left in the quarter/game. Another stand by the Tar Heels defense sets their offense up for an opportunity to retake the lead. A series of 20-plus yard runs by Javonte Williams (21 yards) and Michael Carter (26 yards) eventually sets up Howell for another touchdown, as he closes out the drive with a 20-yard touchdown run to make it a 52-45 lead with 4:11 left in the 4th quarter.

Wake would get the ball back, but a sack by Chazz Surratt ends the drive. Two plays later, a 15-yard touchdown run by Javonte Williams makes it a 59-45 game with 2:39 left, seemingly closing out the game.

Not exactly.

A 46-yard reception by Wake's Jaquarii Roberson gets them into Tar Heel territory, and his 5-yard touchdown reception makes it a 59-51 game. Sam Hartman would complete a pass to Brandon Chapman for the 2-point conversion, making it 59-53 with 57 second left in the 4th quarter/game. As expected, the Deacons attempt an onside kick, but North Carolina recovers it and holds on for a 6-point win.

Recap: North Carolina Tar Heels (6-2, 6-2) defeats the Wake Forest Demon Deacons (4-3, 3-3) by a 59-53 score

Today's showdown is one of the more thrilling games of the season.

North Carolina has a slight advantage in time of possession (31:28 to 28:48), and both teams have 30 first downs apiece. Both teams combined for 1,348 total yards of offense (742 total yards for the Tar Heels and 606 yards for the Deacons). The Tar Heels' defense allows 3.8 yards per carry to the Deacons' rushing attack (46 carries for 177 yards) while the Deacons' defense allows 5.1 yards per carry to the Heels' ground game (38 carries for 192 yards).

While these aspects of the game account for some of the offensive fireworks, it's the passing game for both teams that run both defenses ragged.

North Carolina's Sam Howell completes 32 of 45 passes for 550 yards (just 30 yards short of matching Clemson's DeShaun Waton's ACC record of 580 passing yards set in 2016). He tosses 6 touchdown passes (with one interception) and added a rushing touchdown. Javonte Williams has an "average" game of 13 carries for 101 yards (averaging 7.8 yards per carry) with a touchdown. Wideouts Dazz Newsome (10 receptions for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns), Dyami Brown (8 receptions for 163 yards and 2 touchdowns), and Khafre Brown (3 receptions for 87 yards) account for 439 receiving yards. And while both defenses struggled, Chazz Surratt's sack helped stall the Deacons' comeback efforts towards the end of the 4th quarter/game.

Lost in the 7 touchdown game by Howell is the well-played game by Wake Forest's Sam Hartwell; he completes 29 of 45 passes for a season high 429 yards and 4 touchdowns. He adds a rushing touchdown to help direct the offense's 50-plus point effort. Christian Beal-Smith "quietly" adds 17 carries for 120 rushing yards (averaging 7.1 yards per carry); Kenneth Walker III adds 2 touchdowns on the ground, but is limited to 51 rushing yards (averaging 3.9 yards per carry). Donavon Greene (8 receptions for 170 yards with 2 touchdowns) and Jaquarii Roberson (12 receptions for 167 yards with 2 touchdowns) combine for nearly 340 receiving yards.

With a 2-game winning streak, the Tar Heels have nearly 2 weeks to prepare for a Friday afternoon showdown against 2nd ranked Notre Dame (entering today's game with Boston College at 7-0 overall and 6-0 in the conference) at South Bend, IN (November 27, 2020 at 3:30pm EST). The Deacons will look to get back in the win column on November 21, 2020 at 12pm in Durham, NC against the Duke Blue Devils (2-6, 1-6).

All photos and video are via the ACC Media Portal:

  1. UNC quarterback Sam Howell had quite a day today. His 550 passing yards include 6 touchdowns and 1 interception.

  2. The Tar Heels' wide receiver Emery Simmons celebrates with his teammates; their offense gains 742 total yards.

  3. Wake Forest running back Christian Beal-Smith on the run; his 17 carries for 120 yards (averaging 7.1 yards per carry) leads the Deacons' ground game.

  4. Jaquarii Roberson turned in another 100-plus yard receiving game. His 12 catches for 167 yards for 2 touchdowns contributes to the 53 point offensive output by the Deacs.

  5. Deacons' defensive back Ja'Sir Taylor comes up with the lone interception of the game.

  6. Sam Howell rumbles for a 20-yard touchdown run. He produces 7 combined touchdowns (6 passing and 1 rushing) as the Heels overcome a 45-24 3rd quarter deficit to win 59-53.

  7. Dazz-ling; the Tar Heels' Daz Newsome erupts for 10 receptions for 189 yards and 2 touchdowns.

  8. Just another day for Javonte Williams; he enters the game averaging 7.2 yards per carry for the Tar Heels. He leads their rushing attack with 13 carries for 101 yards (averaging 7.8 yards per carry) with a touchdown.


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