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Running game fuels North Carolina football to 34-14 victory over Wofford

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Senior running back British Brooks (24) is tackled at the game against Wofford on Nov. 20 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 34-14.

On Saturday afternoon, the North Carolina football team released a relentless ground attack in its 34-14 victory over Wofford. 

Pretty much anyone who touched the ball had success on Senior Day. Both backup quarterbacks, sophomore Jacolby Criswell and first-year Drake Maye, averaged over nine yards per carry and both running backs, senior British Brooks and graduate transfer Ty Chandler, averaged over seven yards per rush to help the team rack up 305 yards on the ground.

“I thought the offensive line did a good job but backs have to make yards after contact,” head coach Mack Brown said. “That’s where you evaluate their worth and both guys today had a lot of yards after contact.”

Brooks, who led the way with 89 yards and two touchdowns on seven carries, lowered his shoulder when needed and ran through Wofford defenders. 

The former walk-on from Gastonia credited the offensive line and his coaches for putting trust in the running game early on.

After that, it was up to him to show out.

“Shoutout to the big guys up front,” Brooks said. “Shoutout to the ‘O-C’ and all our coaches for trusting the running backs to keep it on the ground and just pound it all day.”

The quarterbacks were also not afraid to get dirty in their final home game. Criswell opened things up with five rushes for 66 yards and Maye followed up the stellar effort with 38 yards of his own on four carries. 

Although the Tar Heels didn't have junior quarterback Sam Howell — who missed the game with an injury — the backups found a way to make it happen in his absence. 

“Sam does a great job of running and with it being Senior Day, I kind of paid tribute to how hard he runs and what he’s done on the ground this year,” Maye said. “He’s a lot looser than I probably am, but us tall guys, we can do a little something athletically.”

Without Howell, Criswell capitalized when he took the field in the first half. The sophomore from Arkansas may not have had number seven on his back, but the similarities between the two were apparent.

In his first career start, preparation was key for Criswell, and playing a smart and clean game helped push his team to victory.

“We knew what they were coming into, we knew my reads and who I was supposed to read, and if they did it, I would keep the ball,” Criswell said. “There’s not much to it, they did things that we were looking forward to and it ended up happening, and when it came to me running, we ended up doing what we were supposed to be doing as a full offense.”

Although Saturday was the first time fans have not seen Howell on the field since he stepped foot on campus as a first-year, the offense didn’t skip a beat. 

The Tar Heels had plenty of chances to look past the 1-9 Terriers, but instead, they were able to build confidence in the running game as they head into their regular season finale against No. 25 N.C. State next weekend.

Sitting at 5-5 heading into Saturday, UNC had a lot to lose but the relentless rushing attack helped them get the one thing they needed – a victory in the home finale to clinch a third straight bowl appearance.  

@austinb_unc

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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