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Thursday January 21st

North Carolina football blows out WCU 49-9, behind explosive first half

Western Carolina's redshirt sophomore center back  Aaron Gethers (2) tackles UNC's  junior wide receiver Antoine Green (3) in the end zone. UNC defeated WCU 49-9.
Buy Photos Western Carolina's redshirt sophomore center back Aaron Gethers (2) tackles UNC's junior wide receiver Antoine Green (3) in the end zone. UNC defeated WCU 49-9.

The North Carolina football team blew out Western Carolina, 49-9, in a game that was decided well before the end of the first half. 

What happened?

After stifling Western Carolina's first drive, the UNC offense moved like a hot knife through butter down the field, taking nine plays to go 71 yards for the score, capped off by the 17-yard touchdown rush by Michael Carter up the middle. On the next drive, the Catamounts took advantage of UNC's undisciplined defense to get just outside of the red zone with an opportunity to move forward, but a dropped pass meant WCU had to settle for a 40-yard field goal for its first points of the day. 

On the Tar Heels' next drive, it took them just four plays and 1:05 of game time to find the end zone once again, this time on a 22-yard reception by Antoine Green, to make the score 14-3. With Western Carolina being forced into another three-and-out, North Carolina needed just three plays to score with the first quarter ending, going up 21-3.

UNC failed to score for the first time on its next drive, when receiver Toe Groves fumbled a caught ball in the WCU 30-yard line, that was recovered by the Catamounts. While Western Carolina quickly got on the other side of the field with a 40-yard pass from Reggie Jones to Owen Cosenke, it was unable to score and elected to punt on fourth down from the UNC 34-yard line. 

UNC would score yet again on its next drive, working its way into the red zone until running back Javonte Williams punched the ball in with a 3-yard rush, the Tar Heels' fourth touchdown of the day. It would be Carter's turn to score on the next drive with a five-yard rush, his third touchdown of the game, which tied a career high previously set against Mercer last year. The Tar Heels would score one more time before the end of the first half, on a 22-yard pass to receiver Dazz Newsome, to go up 49-3 at the break. 

In the second half, with first-year quarterback Jacolby Criswell under center for North Carolina, and then Jace Ruder and finally Jefferson Boaz, UNC scored just seven more points to complete the blowout.

Who stood out? 

In his last home game as a Tar Heel, Carter tied his career-high touchdowns in a game with three, all in the first half. He led UNC in rushing yards with 73 on just eight attempts, and powered the offense during the first half blowout. 

Sophomore quarterback Sam Howell threw for 287 yards and two touchdowns, all in the first half as well. With his second touchdown, he moved into a tie for second for all-time career passing touchdowns at UNC with 64.

When was it decided?

Heading into the second quarter already up 21-3, it was clear North Carolina was going to walk away with a blowout win. The second  half was a mere formality, as UNC rested many of its starters, and tread water until the end.

Why does it matter?

Saturday's matchup was always going to be a blowout, with the Tar Heels favored by nearly 50 points coming into the matchup. The win doesn't mean much, outside of an opportunity to adjust any small issues UNC might have before the last game of the season.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will play their last game of the regular season next Saturday on Dec. 12 against No. 10 Miami, which is set to be one of the toughest challenges North Carolina will face this season. 

@bg_keyes

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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