Wake Forest’s unbeaten start comes to crashing halt
CHAPEL HILL – Wake Forest’s football team was geared up to make amends for last year’s blown lead at North Carolina and was in position to do, leading by three scores midway through the third quarter again.
History didn’t repeat itself; but this was painfully close in North Carolina’s 58-55 non-conference win on Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
Wake Forest (10th AP; 9th CFP) saw a 45-27 third-quarter lead evaporate in a similar fashion
A 25-yard field goal by Grayson Atkins with 2:12 left gave UNC (5-4) a 51-48 lead – the Tar Heels’ only lead of the second half after a back-and-forth first half.
Wake Forest got one first down on the ensuing possession, but Sam Hartman threw four straight incompletions and turn the ball over. Ty Chandler scored on a 50-yard run to salt this one away.
Jaquarii Roberson had a touchdown in the final minute to bring Wake Forest (8-1) within three points, but UNC knocked the onside kick out of bounds and was able to kneel out the rest of the clock.
Wake Forest’s unbeaten start came to a crashing halt after the Deacons took a 45-27 lead with 7:38 left in the third quarter.
The differences in last year’s lead aren’t much; it was 45-24 with 6:56 a year ago.
Hartman accounted for all six of Wake’s touchdowns – four passing, two rushing – and it’s the second time in the last three games he did so, also recording four passing and two rushing scores at Army. But he was picked off twice, including one in the fourth quarter that allowed UNC to tie the game at 48-48.
In the realm of being almost too obvious, but it fits: These offenses picked up where they left off from last season’s game.
The score was 31-24 at halftime, with six lead changes. Wake Forest scored on five of seven possessions in the first half; UNC scored on four of its eight.
A big swing of momentum came between the first and second quarters. Wake Forest entered the second quarter facing fourth-and-1 from UNC’s 31-yard line, but during the break Tar Heels linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel was ejected for targeting and the Deacons were given a first down.
On the first play of the second quarter, Hartman threw a 15-yard touchdown in the back of the end zone to Jaquarii Roberson.
UNC answered with a 10-play, 75-yard drive that took 5:12 off the clock – an eternity, for these offenses – that was punctuated by a 15-yard pass from Sam Howell to Josh Downs on fourth-and-7.
Downs, for the record, was held in check for most of the first half by Ja’Sir Taylor: The ACC’s leading receiver had two catches for 31 yards.
Wake Forest was able to get up by two scores – similar to the game at Army a couple of weeks ago – because of back-to-back three-and-outs after A.T. Perry’s one-handed 32-yard touchdown catch.
The first three-and-out was highlighted by two sacks of Sam Howell; the second came because of a third-and-1 TFL on which Rondell Bothroyd tackled both running back Ty Chandler and Howell five yards behind the line.
UNC notched a 31-yard field goal on the last play of the first half to get the halftime deficit to seven.