Sunday, September 10, 2023

UNC Tops App State in Another Close Showdown

CHAPEL HILL - In yet another nail-biter of a showdown against Appalachian State, No. 17 North Carolina found themselves on the edge of their seats, but ultimately secured a thrilling 40-34 victory in double overtime.

The game was reminiscent of last year's clash in Boone, which ended with a jaw-dropping score of 63-61 and included the Mountaineers putting up an astounding 40 points in the fourth quarter. This time around, the Tar Heels had their nerves tested once again but managed to emerge victorious in front of their home crowd.

Drake Maye, quarterbacking for North Carolina, played a pivotal role in the Tar Heels' triumph. He showcased his versatility with a 13-yard rushing touchdown in the second overtime, providing the critical boost his team needed. The Tar Heels' defense stepped up when it mattered most, preserving the lead to secure the win and put an end to their six-game losing streak in overtime games.

Omarion Hampton was nothing short of spectacular for North Carolina, amassing a remarkable 234 rushing yards and tallying three touchdowns, including a crucial 17-yard run that helped level the score in the first overtime. On the opposing side, Nate Noel's 7-yard touchdown run during Appalachian State's first overtime possession kept the game neck-and-neck, as he finished the day with an impressive 127 yards on 26 carries.

The game had its fair share of twists and turns, with Ryan Coe, the Tar Heels' kicker, delivering two field goals but narrowly missing a crucial 39-yard attempt as the clock ticked down in regulation.

Despite Appalachian State leading on three separate occasions in the second half, the Tar Heels managed to maintain their composure and pull off the win. North Carolina's head coach, Mack Brown, commended his team's resilience, noting that they persevered when it mattered most.

Appalachian State's offense was potent, racking up a total of 494 yards, but they couldn't close out the game in Chapel Hill as they did back in 2019.

In the aftermath of this intense encounter, Appalachian State's coach, Shawn Clark, expressed pride in his team's performance, emphasizing their determination to bounce back and have a strong season.

Hampton, a sophomore standout, credited his offensive line for his exceptional performance, acknowledging their role in opening up running lanes for him. His second touchdown run, from 7 yards out with just over 9 minutes remaining, erased a brief Appalachian State lead. The Mountaineers managed to tie the game with a 33-yard field goal by Michael Hughes late in regulation.

Quarterback Joey Aguilar, leading the Mountaineers, had a commendable performance, completing 22 of 43 passes for 275 yards, along with two touchdowns and one interception.

Hampton's incredible first-half performance, where he rushed for 126 yards, marked a historic moment as he became the first Tar Heel to rush for 100 or more yards in consecutive home openers since Ethan Horton in the early 1980s. Additionally, Don Chapman, North Carolina's safety, contributed to the team's success with an interception in the third quarter, his first since 2020.

North Carolina made history of their own by playing consecutive overtime games at home for the first time, following a 2022 regular season-ending loss to North Carolina State.

In pregame ceremonies, Tez Walker, a North Carolina receiver who had been denied a waiver for immediate NCAA eligibility, was honored as an honorary captain, generating a strong response from Coach Brown following the NCAA's decision.