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Kicker Noah Burnette anchors UNC football's performance in double overtime win against Duke

20231111 - UNC FOOTBALL VS. DUKE
UNC junior kicker Noah Burnette (98) poses with head coach Mark Brown before the football game against Duke in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. UNC beat Duke 47-45.

When UNC students flooded Chris Smith Field on Saturday night, Mack Brown looked around for Noah Burnette. 

But in the craziness of the moment — a field storming after a double-overtime, 47-45 Homecoming night rivalry victory over Duke — the placekicker was nowhere to be found. So the head coach retreated to Kenan Football Center to begin his postgame press conference, where he started off by praising Burnette’s standout performance.

Against Duke, Burnette made all six attempted field goals and three extra points to rack up 21 points on the night. On top of that, the junior stayed cool in two clutch moments, securing a game-tying field goal in the final seconds of regulation, directly followed by a second game-tying field goal in the first period of overtime.

“I’m really proud of Noah Burnette,” Brown said. “He stepped up, and twice late in the ballgame had a pressure kick that kept us alive and gave us a chance to win.”

On a night in which the Tar Heel offense was largely unable to convert in the red zone — squandering multiple touchdown opportunities and not notching a single passing touchdown until the final two minutes of regulation — Burnette remained consistent. While the Tar Heeldefense struggled once again, surrendering 209 yards to Duke in the fourth quarter alone, Burnette stayed poised.

He didn’t falter once all night, something that his teammates said didn’t surprise them. 

And on that final kick of regulation, when it was just him, the ball and the goalposts 43 yards in front of him, all Burnette’s teammates could do was sit back and watch.

“I had a lot of confidence in him to make it,” junior tight end Bryson Nesbit said. “He’s made that kick all the time in practice. You practice what you play.”

Quarterback Drake Maye corroborated, stating there was nothing anybody could say or do to Burnette in the moment — it was up to him.

“[I] trust in him,” Maye said. “It’s kind of like a no-hitter, don't try to go up and say something, just kind of be quiet and let him do his thing, just what he does for a living, he does that in practices all day."

The ball sailed right through the uprights to give UNC one last shot at beating the Blue Devils in overtime. It looked natural for the placekicker. Easy, even.

But it wasn't always so. 

In the final home game of the 2022 season, in a game eerily similar to this one, the Raleigh native missed the game-tying field goal in double overtime against N.C. State.  The ball flew low and left on the 35-yard attempt, and Burnette hung his head in his hands as he walked off the field and onto the sidelines  — no distracting fans to be found.

On Saturday, he got his redemption.

After the game, senior linebacker Cedric Gray spotted Burnette in the chaos, making a point to go up to him and voice his praise. 

“I literally looked at him after the game and said ‘I’m proud of you. You made plays today, you helped us win today,'" Gray said. “So hats off to him.” 

And after Brown finished speaking to the media, he knew had one thing left to do before calling it a night.

“I’m going to make sure that I find him fast and congratulate him on a great way to finish that game." 

@PeaceGwen

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Gwen Peace

Gwen Peace is the 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as a senior writer. Gwen is a sophomore pursuing a double major in media and journalism and peace, war and defense.