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The Daily Tar Heel

UNC football falls to N.C. State, 39-20, in offensive meltdown

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UNC head coach Mack Brown walks off of the field following a timeout in Carter Finley Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023 during the football game against N.C. State.

The UNC football team (8-4, 4-4 ACC) fell to N.C. State (9-3, 6-2 ACC),  39-20, Saturday night in the final game of the regular season, for its third-straight loss to the Wolfpack. 

Sophomore quarterback Drake Maye ended the game with just 254 passing yards and 106 rushing yards. Sophomore running back Omarion Hampton, who entered the game tied for first in the nation in rushing, recorded only 28 yards, breaking his six-game 100-yard rushing streak. 

From the first snap of the game, UNC appeared sluggish. The Tar Heels struggled through their first drive, only progressing one yard down the field and allowing the Wolfpack to force an immediate three-and-out. This trend continued, with the North Carolina offense unable to make any forward momentum on the ensuing drives, failing to score any points in the first quarter. 

"A lot of things weren't clicking," Maye said. "It starts with me, I got to do a better job and we just can't start out bad with a rough start like we did." 

Maye did not make a single pass throughout the opening 15 minutes, going 0-3 on attempts. In stark contrast, N.C. State quarterback Brennan Armstrong immediately made an impact, connecting with wide receiver Kevin Concepcion off the bat for a 23-yard completion, in a preview of what would become the go-to play for Armstrong throughout the game. 

"[Concepcion] did a great job today of executing and getting open and making plays and he made it very hard for us to slow him down," senior linebacker Cedric Gray said. "So shout out to him." 

Despite failing to find the end zone, the Wolfpack was able to capitalize on the inefficiency of the Tar Heel defensive line twice in the first quarter, notching two field goals to get off to an early six point lead. 

Armstrong came out strong in the second quarter, spearheading a N.C. State 11-play scoring drive that ended in a passing touchdown into the gloves of Concepcion to extend the Wolfpack’s lead to 13. Maye, meanwhile, couldn't find an answer, only managing a meager 3-yard pass to junior tight end John Copenhaver — his first completion of the night. It wasn't until the 25th minute of the game that UNC finally put itself on the scoreboard, with a 15-yard passing touchdown from Maye to Copenhaver. 

By the time that halftime rolled around, N.C. State found itself leading 27-7, with 327 total offensive yards in comparison to UNC's 123. 

N.C. State came out of the locker room strong, immediately scoring off a 20-yard pass from Armstrong to wide receiver Dacari Collins to punctuate an 8-play drive. For what seemed like the first time in the game, UNC was able to respond, and Maye rushed the ball into the end zone with a quarterback keeper to bring the gap to 19. 

The rest of the third quarter ensued in a similar fashion, with both UNC and N.C. State notching respective touchdowns but missing the two-point conversion to make the score 39-20. 

In the final period, the Tar Heels were unable to do anything but watch as the Wolfpack put the nail in the coffin of the rivalry win. Maye was taken out of the game with just under 10 minutes remaining, after being sacked and suffering an injury, forcing backup quarterback Conner Harrell to take his place. 

Maye returned to the field in the last three minutes of the game, but was unable to make anything happen. His final pass of the game was intercepted, to seal N.C. State's 19-point rivalry win, and UNC's regular season. 

"Congratulations to Coach Doeren and N.C. State — they played great," head coach Mack Brown said. "I did a very poor job of preparing our team obviously." 

The Tar Heels will next take the field to play in their bowl game, which has yet to be announced.

@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.