CHAPEL HILL – For the second year in a row, Wake Forest couldn’t protect a big second-half lead at Carolina. This time around, however, it likely cost the 10th-ranked Demon Deacons any chance of their way into the college football playoff race.
Ty Chandler ran for career highs 213 yards and four touchdowns and the Tar Heels overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Wake Forest 58-55 on Saturday, handing the Demon Deacons their first loss.
It ended with the unusual sight of fans storming the pitch to celebrate a victory over their home foe.
“I told them, every Saturday you build memories,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said. “This is what you do. And it is a game that they will remember for the rest of their lives. And I’m really, really proud that my name is associated with them.
Chandler’s big day featured a 50-yard breakaway run with 1:12 remaining to bring the score to 58-48. It was the final blow for the Tar Heels (5-4) by rallying to a 45-27 deficit with 7:38 left in the third quarter to beat the Demon Deacons (8-1, No. 9 CFP). A year ago, Carolina was down 21 before rallying to win 59-53.
“It was just like a replay of last year’s game,” said Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson.
“Pretty similar,” repeated quarterback Sam Hartman.
The Tar Heels felt it too, even basically.
“What we were saying on the sidelines was, we’ve been here before,” said UNC quarterback Sam Howell.
The loss does not impact the Demon Deacons’ pursuit of their first ACC title since 2006, as it was part of a non-home conference series announced in 2015, with schools not meeting as often in the middle. of the CCA Expanded Planning Model. But the goal Clawson mentioned after Duke’s rout last week – being in the playoff discussion – is likely gone.
“We just weren’t sharp,” Clawson said. “You say that and we scored about fifty points. But we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We certainly played well on offense and scored a lot of points, but with North Carolina playing so well we had to be a little better. And we weren’t.
Hartman threw for 398 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 78 yards and two more scores for Wake Forest. AT Perry and Jaquarii Roberson each had a pair of touchdowns to lead a 615-yard effort of offense.
But this high-scoring unit, one of the best in the Bowl subdivision, stalled at a critical moment with three straight empty records. And it came up against a much maligned defense that had struggled to show many tangible signs of improvement this season, a key part of UNC’s struggles to move from No.10 in preseason to unranked. before October.
Howell threw for 216 yards and a touchdown and ran for 104 and two more scores in a top quarterback matchup. And the Tar Heels have scored in their last five full practices, four for touchdowns.
“We were just breathing life into each other and encouraging each other and getting on with it,” Chandler said, adding, “That’s what it boiled down to: just being able to respond. And we did a great job. work for that. “
The Carolina saves were a huge development. There was Hartman’s second interception by Cam Kelly with 10:40 left to set up a touchdown. There was a battered pass from Ray Vohasek to the line on the fourth down in the next practice, followed by another incomplete fourth down after Grayson Atkins’ 25-yard goal with 2:12 left. It all came with top linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel ejected for also aiming late in the first quarter.
The Demon Deacons are entering a home stretch of three straight championship games that will determine whether they win the Atlantic Division race, starting with Saturday’s home test against NC State.
The Tar Heels have a short week and visit Pittsburgh on Thursday in what will be another top quarterback game with Kenny Pickett.
This story is written by The Associated Press.