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No. 17 UNC football squeaks by Appalachian State, 40-34, in double overtime

UNC sophomore quarterback Drake Maye (10) celebrates his go-ahead walk-in touchdown in second overtime during the football game against Appalachian State at Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 9, 2023. UNC squeezed past Appalachian State 40-34.

The No. 17 North Carolina football team (2-0, 0-0 ACC) defeated Appalachian State (1-1, 0-0 Sun Belt), 40-34, in double overtime in its first home game of the 2023 season on Saturday evening.

“It was a great football game,” head coach Mack Brown said. “I’m proud of our guys. There were times when we didn’t finish during the night, but we finished when it mattered at the end. That’s the first time we’ve won an overtime game since I’ve been here.”

UNC’s opening drive ended on a fourth-and-1 on App State’s 13-yard line. Sophomore running back Omarion Hampton lined up in a Wildcat formation and attempted to power through off of a direct snap, but was tackled for a 1-yard loss.

On the ensuing drive, App State quarterback Joey Aguilar wasted no time in finding receiver Dashaun Davis for 33 total yards. However, the Mountaineers had to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt, with kicker Michael Hughes’ kick sailing left.

UNC quickly found itself in a third-and-1 situation, once again trying a Wildcat run but with junior running back Caleb Hood instead. However, the Tar Heels fell short and were forced to punt.

Powered by short runs from running back Nate Noel, the Mountaineers capped off their drive with a career-long 46-yard field goal from Hughes to draw first blood. Two plays later, Hampton broke through the middle for a 68-yard touchdown to put the Tar Heels on the board.

“You just wanna stay patient each time,” Hampton said. “And then when a hole opens up, you just wanna hit it.”

The Mountaineers responded with a quick trip downfield, highlighted by Aguilar’s dimes to Davis for 34 yards and tight end Eli Wilson for a 5-yard touchdown. UNC responded with a 47-yard field goal from graduate kicker Ryan Coe.

The Mountaineers opened up the second half with a six-play, 75-yard drive that concluded with Aguilar airing the ball out to Davis for a 33-yard touchdown. North Carolina’s offense finally began to find some rhythm, with quarterback Drake Maye finding sophomore receiver Kobe Paysour for a 29-yard completion and Hood barreling into the end zone for a 5-yard score.

Senior safety Don Chapman picked off Aguilar midway through the third quarter, and Coe hit a 31-yard field goal. Aguilar found three different targets in Miller Gibbs, Dalton Stroman and Milan Tucker for 47 combined yards, with Noel reaching the end zone on a 7-yard touchdown. The shootout continued with Maye launching a deep ball to junior receiver J.J. Jones for a 57-yard completion and Hampton punching in a 7-yard touchdown.

With four minutes to play, App State began to make its way down the field, again relying on Aguilar’s passes and Noel’s runs. Hughes drilled a 33-yard field goal to tie the game with 1:22 left. As regulation expired, Coe missed the potential game-winning field goal.

Overtime opened up with Noel and Hampton trading rushing touchdowns. Maye scampered into the end zone to open up the second overtime, but North Carolina couldn’t capitalize on the two-point conversion.

“I’m gonna leave it all out there for this football team, for my teammates and for this university.” Maye said. “And I’m not gonna change that.”

UNC forced the Mountaineers into a fourth-and-5, where Aguilar overthrew Davis to clinch the game for the Tar Heels.

Hampton bolstered UNC’s offense, totaling 234 rushing yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile, Aguilar, Noel and Davis led App State’s offense with 272 passing yards, 127 rushing yards and 117 receiving yards, respectively.

The Tar Heels return to Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Minnesota. Kickoff is at 3:30 p.m.


@dthsports |

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.