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Wednesday December 7th

UNC football falls to Notre Dame, 45-32, for first loss of the season

<p>Quarterback Drake Maye (10), throws a touchdown in Kenen Stadium on Sept. 24, 2022, at the UNC game against Notre Dame. Notre Dame defeated the Tar Hesls, 45-32.</p>
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Quarterback Drake Maye (10), throws a touchdown in Kenen Stadium on Sept. 24, 2022, at the UNC game against Notre Dame. Notre Dame defeated the Tar Hesls, 45-32.

The North Carolina football team (3-1, 0-0 ACC) fell 45-32 to Notre Dame (2-2) in Chapel Hill on Saturday after struggling in all three phases of the game. 

What happened?

North Carolina drove down the field on its opening drive, converting on fourth and goal off a touchdown pass to wide receiver Josh Downs in the corner of the end zone. On the Tar Heels’ first drive, Maye had 39 yards through the air and 33 on the ground. On the ensuing drive, the Fighting Irish were quickly forced to punt. 

After a short lived drive, UNC punted again and Notre Dame returned it into Tar Heel territory — a drive that ended in a missed field goal attempt. North Carolina was then forced to punt again, and the Tar Heels carried a 7-0 lead as the first quarter came to an end. Notre Dame got on the board on the next drive off a touchdown reception from tight end Michael Mayer.

Notre Dame then scored on its next drive off a 30-yard touchdown pass from Irish quarterback Drew Pyne to give Notre Dame its first lead of the day. 

North Carolina came right back down and answered on its next drive, after a bomb from Maye ended up in the hands of wide receiver J.J. Jones, putting the Tar Heels in another goal-to-go situation. Maye then threw another short touchdown pass to Downs to make it 14-14. 

The Irish then drove right back down the field, retaking the lead as running back Audric Estime walked it in from the one yard line. The Tar Heels couldn’t move the sticks on their next drive and punted — leaving the Irish 2:15 on the clock to drive. 

The short drive came back to hurt North Carolina, as Notre Dame slowly drove down the field and hit a 40-yard field goal to take a 10-point lead into halftime. The Irish’s 24 halftime points were as many as they had scored in a game this season until Saturday.

The Fighting Irish received the second half kickoff and scored in just six plays to take a 31-14 lead. Then, another short North Carolina drive and punt quickly turned into another Notre Dame touchdown. 

North Carolina broke its scoring drought with just over four minutes to go in the third quarter off an 80-yard touchdown pass from Maye to Antoine Green to make it 38-20.  

After Notre Dame opened the fourth quarter with another touchdown, UNC answered on its next drive to make it 45-26 with just under 10 minutes remaining. UNC added one last touchdown to make it 45-32 in the dying moments of the contest.

Who stood out? 

Downs and Green were both bright spots in an otherwise difficult day for the Tar Heels. Despite only registering 32 receiving yards, Downs caught every ball that came his way and scored both of the Tar Heels early touchdowns. Green finished with 150 yards and two touchdowns of his own. 

Despite struggling for portions of the game and completing just over 50 percent of his passes, Maye finished the afternoon with five touchdown passes, over 300 yards passing and a team-high 36 yards on the ground. 

When was it decided?

After UNC’s opening defensive possession, the Tar Heels couldn’t seem to get a stop. Despite holding a 14-14 tie in the second quarter, Notre Dame scored 24 unanswered points and cruised to a victory. 

Why does it matter?

After four years of the Mack Brown era, the North Carolina defense has shown little sign of improvement. The Tar Heels stayed close with the Fighting Irish in each of the last two seasons — and if there was ever a year UNC looked primed to get over the hump and beat the Irish, it was this one. 

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will be back in Kenan Stadium next Saturday, Oct. 1 for their first ACC bout of the season against Virginia Tech. 

@zachycrain

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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