CHARLOTTE, N.C. – If you’re a reporter covering the North Carolina football team, and you’re not in the front row of the media swarm surrounding Sam Howell, you’ve got a problem.
The first-year quarterback is almost deceptively quiet, and you’ll have a hard time transcribing his quotes. Your arm might get sore from stretching out your recorder-wielding hand.
Then, if you were to find yourself in this situation, you’d realize what to do: the same thing Howell does. Let his play speak for itself.
In UNC’s season opener against South Carolina on Saturday, Howell lead two fourth quarter drives of 90-plus yards for touchdowns, turning a 20-9 deficit into a 24-20 win. Forget his first career start – it was his first college game, period. He became the only true first-year in UNC history to start a season opener.
Still, his 245 yards, two touchdowns and quiet confidence led the way.
“Sam’s a baller. No matter what situation he’s in, he’s got control,” wide receiver Beau Corrales said. “He’s not an extremely 'rah-rah' type of guy, but the confidence he has, you can feel that.”
It was Corrales who corralled a 17-yard pass from Howell with 8:26 to play for a touchdown, giving the Tar Heels their first lead of the game, a lead they would not relinquish.
The Gamecocks’ next three drives: punt, interception, interception. For the first time since 2014, North Carolina was 1-0.
“I’ve never seen a happier group in the dressing room than they were tonight,” new head coach Mack Brown said. “The ‘05 national championship team was not any happier than this team.”