The North Carolina football team (2-0) beat Appalachian State (0-1) on Saturday, 63-61, in a thrilling high-scoring affair.
After struggling against Florida A&M, the Tar Heels’ defense allowed App State to run a 52-yard touchdown on its first possession of the afternoon. On the ensuing drive, UNC punched back by way of a pair of electric plays from redshirt first-year Drake Maye — who moved the Tar Heels into App State territory on a 31-yard completion, moved the chains on a fourth down and completed the drive with a touchdown pass to J.J. Jones.
App State scored off a few explosive, big-yardage plays on its next possession — setting up for a shootout midway through the first quarter. After a long Mountaineer drive to end the quarter, App State promptly got on the board again to start the second making it 21-7, App State.
UNC returned the favor on its next possession, as Maye continued his impressive afternoon with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Kobe Paysour to make it 21-14 with 9:30 to go in the first half. After a Mountaineers field goal attempt came up well short, Maye led the Tar Heels back down the field with his legs and running back George Pettaway finished the drive with a 21-yard touchdown run to tie it up.
With 1:52 to go in the first half, UNC forced the first App State punt of the afternoon. The Tar Heels quickly advanced into Mountaineer territory and Maye connected with tight end Bryson Nesbit to take a 28-21 lead into the break.
Out of the break, Maye led North Carolina on another long drive ending in a 12-yard touchdown run by the quarterback to take a 35-21 lead early in the half. After another long App State drive, UNC sacked quarterback Chase Brice to force a turnover on downs.
The Tar Heels continued their scoring momentum on the next drive, knocking in a field goal to make it 38-21. After a Mountaineer turnover in their own territory, North Carolina knocked in another field goal to take a 20-point lead into the fourth quarter.
App State slowly worked its way back into the game, scoring on one drive, forcing a Maye fumble on the next and following it up with seven more points to make it a one-score game with 10:37 remaining.
The momentum didn’t last for long, though, with running back Caleb Hood leading the Tar Heels down the field via a 71-yard run on the next drive. Running back Omarion Hampton then punched it in for UNC to regain the double-digit lead.
App State scored again on its next drive to make it 49-42 going into the final half of the fourth quarter. After a short UNC drive, the Mountaineers got the ball back with a chance to tie things up, and did, making it 49-49 with four minutes to go in regulation.
Maye then completed a touchdown pass off his back foot while being hit to D.J. Jones to take the lead. App State went down and scored, attempted a two-point conversion to win the game and missed the opportunity.
UNC then returned an onside kick to take an eight-point lead, which App State followed by scoring again. The Mountaineers came up short on the conversion, giving UNC a 63-61 victory.
Who stood out?
Maye was dominant throughout the afternoon, finishing with 352 yards and 4 touchdowns through the air and 76 yards and a score on the ground. Maye’s performance was instrumental in leading the Tar Heels to victory.
When was it decided?
Despite UNC’s lead, the Mountaineers put together a comeback and tied the game up with four minutes to go. A touchdown pass from Maye seemed to seal the game, but then App State scored again. After Nesbit returned the kick for a touchdown, the Mountaineers had another chance to tie with a two-point conversion, but once again came up short.
Why does it matter?
App State came into the game as slight favorites, but UNC showed itself to be the better team for much of the afternoon. Despite coming from the Sun Belt, App State is a quality program — making a bowl game every year since moving up to the FBS — and Kidd Brewer Stadium was packed early on with a record 40,168 attendance. After the Mountaineer comeback, UNC showed it was capable of winning close contests.
Despite the early deficit, UNC was able to overcome an unfavorable circumstance and move to 2-0.
When do they play next?
The Tar Heels will be back on the road next weekend, facing Georgia State in Atlanta for their final out-of-conference matchup of the season.
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