Saturday, September 3, 2022

UNC Outlasts App State After Wild, 62 Point Fourth Quarter

BOONE – It was a matchup that had been circled on calendars for both teams. For North Carolina, many of the Tar Heels remembered App State’s blocked field goal to upset the Heels, 34-31, on the road during the 2019 season. For App State, a chance to host the state’s flagship university for the first time ever showed that App State had finally “arrived” in the state’s college football landscape. The game started strong for the hometown Mountaineers, who were energized by a raucous and record crowd of 40,168 in attendance, but it was the visiting Tar Heels who laid claim to victory on Saturday afternoon after a wild sixty-two-point final quarter eventually ended with a 63-61 victory over App State.

App State rode the momentum wave into their first drive of the game. After Eli Wilson rolled over a Tar Heel defender and rumbled out to midfield on a catch and run, sophomore running back Nate Noel burst through the line and scampered fifty-two yards for the opening score of the game.

Carolina responded quickly, with JJ Jones’s thirty-one-yard reception getting the Tar Heels into Mountaineer territory. Drake Maye’s keeper on fourth down extended the drive and the redshirt freshman signal caller hit Jones on the next play for the tying score.

The Mountaineers were not intimidated, though, and came right back with a scoring drive on their second possession. Redshirt freshman Dalton Stroman’s second career catch was a great grab, putting App State in Tar Heel territory, giving Chase Brice the space he needed to find tight end Henry Pearson streaking down the home sideline for the score and a 14-7 lead. App State continued its early domination into the second quarter and even extended the lead to 21-7 on a Christian Wells catch, but the rest of the second quarter belonged to the visiting Tar Heels.

Carolina’s freshman quarterback, who beat out more experienced competition in fall camp, showed off why Tar Heels coach Mack Brown named him the starter with his performance in the middle quarters. Drake Maye beat the App State defense with his arm and legs to turn the tide in favor of the Heels. Maye threw for two scores, a fourteen-yard strike to Kobe Paysour and a ten-yard pass to Bryson Nesbit, while also running for a score to open the second half. In the span of fifteen minutes of game action, the Tar Heels had turned a 21-7 deficit into a 35-21 lead early in the third quarter.

Gene Chizik’s Tar Heel defense, who gave up big plays to open the first half, clamped down and held App State at bay through the middle two quarters. Cedric Gray was all over the field for the visitors, registering tackle after tackle. Gray’s interception late in the third quarter led to three more points for the Heels as Noah Burnette was good on his second field goal of the day to finish the scoring heading into the final stanza.

The fourth quarter was an entire game within itself. Both teams traded blow after blow, combining for sixty-two points and eight touchdowns. Chase Brice threw four of his six touchdowns for the day in the final ten and a half minutes of the game. With fans at The Rock roaring, App State, who had trailed by twenty points, came back to tie the score at 49-all on Camerun Peoples' 38-yard touchdown run and Michael Hughes' extra point with exactly four minutes remaining.

Carolina moved back ahead, converting a third-and-9 pass from Drake Maye to an open DJ Jones for a forty-two-yard touchdown with just under three minutes remaining before the Mountaineers moved quickly into UNC territory in the final minute. Chase Brice hit Dashaun Davis for a twenty-eight-yard touchdown with thirty-one seconds left, and the Mountaineers went for a go-ahead two-point conversion, but the pass to Davis sailed just out of his reach.

“I had made my mind up early that we were going for two and the win,” App State head coach Shawn Clark said after the game. “We're not going for second place at Appalachian State.”

UNC's Bryson Nesbit returned the onside kick for a touchdown, but that at least gave App State one more chance, because the extra point kept the margin as a one-score game at 63-55. Milan Tucker's long kickoff return to near midfield and Brice's twenty-two-yard completion to Kaedin Robinson set up another Brice-to-Robinson connection, this one a twenty-six-yard touchdown with nine seconds remaining.

The Tar Heels took away Brice's throwing options and stopped him short of the goal line on the two-point conversion to secure the win.

After the game UNC head coach Mack Brown praised what he called “two great offenses, two tremendous quarterbacks…a tremendous performance” after the wild fourth quarter while acknowledging “as many things we need to fix on defense, they had two, two-point conversion stops, to win the game.”

Notable North Carolinians

Drake Maye (Hough) – The freshman quarterback threw for 352 yards on 24 of 36 passing and four touchdowns while running for 76 yards and a score.

Kobe Paysour (Kings Mountain) – The freshman wide receiver was a threat the entire afternoon, tallying 8 catches and a touchdown.

Cedric Gray (Ardrey Kell) – the junior linebacker had a big interception late in the third quarter along with a team-high 13 tackles.

Kaedin Robinson (Christ School) – The redshirt sophomore had two big catches on the final, potential, game-tying drive in the last thirty seconds of the game.

Next Week

North Carolina (2-0) is on the road at a Sun Belt foe for the second straight week, taking on Georgia State, while App State (0-1) goes on the road to face preseason #6 Texas A&M from the SEC.