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Thursday January 20th

UNC football notches massive comeback win against No. 9 Wake Forest, 58-55

Graduate student running back Ty Chandler (19) carries the ball at the game against Wake Forest on Nov. 6 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 58-55.
Buy Photos Graduate student running back Ty Chandler (19) carries the ball at the game against Wake Forest on Nov. 6 at Kenan Stadium. UNC won 58-55.

After being down by 18 at one point, the North Carolina football team (5-4, 3-3 ACC) came back to defeat Wake Forest (8-1, 5-0 ACC) in a non-conference matchup on Saturday, 58-55, ending the Demon Deacons’ undefeated record. 

What happened?

After UNC graduate transfer running back Ty Chandler fumbled the opening snap, it was recovered by Wake Forest’s Ryan Smenda, allowing the Demon Deacons to start their offense at UNC’s 34-yard line. After a tough start for the Tar Heels, their defense took a stand, settling for a field goal to put Wake Forest up 3-0 early on. 

UNC’s offense responded with a long touchdown drive capped off by an 18-yard scoring run by junior quarterback Sam Howell. However, Wake Forest reclaimed the lead, 10-7, after a 6-yard touchdown from quarterback Sam Hartman. 

After an interception by junior defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly, Howell completed a 30-yard pass to Chandler, then rushed the last 12 yards for a touchdown to put the Tar Heels up, 14-10. Hartman threw a long pass to the end zone from UNC’s 40-yard line, but it was broken up by senior defensive back Trey Morrison. Opening the second quarter, Hartman completed a 15-yard pass to redshirt junior Jaquarii Roberson for a touchdown to put the Demon Deacons up, 17-14.

After Howell converted on 4th-and-7 around midfield with a 15-yard pass, Chandler rushed 19 yards to put the Tar Heels at the 1-yard line, then finished with a touchdown to put UNC up by four. Wake Forest answered with a 32-yard touchdown off an impressive one-hand snag by wide receiver A.T. Perry, putting the Demon Deacons up 24-21. 

Both teams were forced to punt after unsuccessful drives. In the final minutes of the second quarter, Hartman passed to a wide-open Taylor Morin for a 37-yard touchdown, putting Wake Forest in the driver’s seat. UNC settled for three just before the end of the half, making it a one-possession game heading into halftime.

The Tar Heels started the second quarter with sophomore wide receiver Justin Olson catching a 45-yard pass to put them at the 6-yard line. However, a strong defensive stand from Wake Forest forced UNC to settle for three, cutting Wake’s lead to just four. The Demon Deacons responded with a 21-yard touchdown from Hartman, bringing the score to 38-27. Not even two minutes later, Hartman completed a 66-yard touchdown pass to Perry, giving Wake Forest their biggest lead of the game.

UNC kept the pressure on, though, with a 29-yard pass from Howell to senior wide receiver Antoine Green for a touchdown. The Tar Heels then forced Wake Forest to settle for three on the next play, bringing the score to 48-34 to end the third quarter.

The Tar Heels had a dynamic start to the fourth quarter. Chandler opened with a 13-yard touchdown, and shortly after, Kelly picked off the quarterback and ran 20 yards — Chandler finished it off with a 21-yard touchdown to tie the game. With the game still tied with under three minutes left, UNC went for a field goal to take the lead 51-48. 

After a stop from UNC, Chandler rushed 50 yards for a touchdown to put UNC up 58-48 with 1:12 on the clock. Wake Forest scored, but did not have time to break the deficit. 

Who stood out? 

Chandler led the team with four touchdowns, including what ended up being the game-winning touchdown for UNC. Chandler also had a career high 213 rushing yards.

Hartman was key for the Demon Deacons, averaging 6.5 yards per attempt and registering two touchdowns. Despite the loss, Hartman was individually responsible for seven touchdowns on the afternoon — a new Wake Forest school record.

When was it decided?

After UNC forced a fourth down for the Demon Deacons and followed with a touchdown in the final minutes, the Demon Deacons were fighting the clock to make a comeback. Even though Wake Forest was able to score a touchdown and reduce the lead to just three, the team couldn’t pull it out. 

Why does it matter?

Despite an underwhelming season, this game helped the Tar Heels prove they can pull out tough games. This game broke Wake Forest’s previously undefeated 8-0 streak, and will bring the Tar Heels back to a winning record at 5-4.

When do they play next?

UNC will travel to Pittsburgh Thursday to face the No. 1 team in the ACC Coastal Division, the Pittsburgh Panthers (7-2, 4-1 ACC). The game is set to start at 7:30 p.m.

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article misstated the date of UNC's game against the Pittsburgh Panthers. The game is scheduled for Thursday, Nov. 11, 2021 at 7:30 p.m. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for the error. 

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