UNC’s Comeback Magic Clinches Coastal Division Title
WINSTON-SALEM, NC – North Carolina summoned its magic again Saturday night, and this time the ACC Coastal Division came with it.
The 15th-ranked Tar Heels edged Wake Forest 36-34 at Truist Field as Noah Burnett’s 33-yard field goal with 2:12 left was the game-winner.
UNC’s defense shut down the Demon Deacons in the fourth quarter, making a final statement that put the Tar Heels in position to overcome a second-half deficit in game four.
North Carolina (9-1 overall, 6-0 ACC) is making its second trip to the ACC Championship Game and first appearance since 2015, despite how its final two regular-season games went against Georgia Tech and NC State. The ACC Championship Game is Dec. 3 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte with UNC vs. Clemson.
Cam Kelly’s interception of Wake Forest defenseman Sam Hartman in the final five minutes of the game set the stage for Burnett’s game-winning goal. UNC’s defense connected on fourth-down stops around Kelly’s clutch touchdown, and the celebration was here in a stadium where the Tar Heels haven’t won since 2004.
UNC quarterback Drake May threw for a season-high 448 yards and three touchdowns, all of those scores going to Josh Downs, who had 11 catches for 154 yards. The Tar Heels led 14-0, 21-7 and 27-21 in the first half.
May’s 5-yard touchdown run on third down in the second half gave North Carolina a 33-28 lead. Wake Forest answered on three plays. Hartman’s 60-yard bomb to Donavon Green gave the Demon Deacons a 34-33 win. UNC cornerback Storm Dak Hartmans broke up a two-point pass attempt.
Hartman threw for 320 yards and four touchdowns. The Demon Deacons (6-4, 2-4) suffered their third straight loss. Wake Forest is 19-3 in home games since the start of the 2019 season.
The Tar Heels went 6-0 in a season for the first time in program history.
Josh Downs counts them out, 1-2-3
Downs scored three times and had his fourth straight 100-yard receiving effort before halftime, and did so with some flair.
While fellow running back Antoine Greene was being checked out in the medical tent after taking a big hit up the middle — a hit that sidelined Greene for the rest of the game — May connected with Downs for a 20-yard touchdown pass to send the North going. Carolina leads 27-21 at the end of the first half.
Downs then reached out and put one finger on the other in a one, two, three moment to celebrate the score.
RaRa Dilworth’s big game in her own backyard
Wake Forest had another moment when UNC’s defense was able to pressure the Demon Deacons’ quarterback late in the first half, when Hartman eluded defensive lineman Jahvari Ritzy on third-and-10.
Hartman couldn’t outrun RaRa Dilworth, but is a speedy backup linebacker. Hartman tried to make a move on a fast-closing Dilworth, but it didn’t work and Dilworth dropped him for a 14-yard loss.
It marked the first sack of the sophomore Dilworth’s college career, and it came in his hometown. The Winston-Salem native was a highly recruited high school prospect out of Kennersville Glenn.
What a run for Elijah Green
UNC jumped out to a 14-0 lead in the first eight minutes of the game. It capped a four-play drive that lasted just 51 seconds, with Green’s 24-yard burst starting the Tar Heels in a hurry.
That moved Green to six touchdowns — five rushing and one receiving — since a flurry at Duke three games ago, when he caught the first touchdowns of his college career.
In the following table
North Carolina State returns home to play Georgia Tech, the first series of games to close out the regular season at Kenan Stadium.
A win over the Tar Heels over the Yellow Jackets (4-6, 3-4) would make it a season-defying ACC Coastal Division opponent. UNC has defeated division opponents Virginia Tech, Miami, Duke, Pittsburgh and Virginia during this exceptional season.
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