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North Carolina Beats Wake Forest in Historic Comeback

Heels, Deacs have shootout in Battle of the Sams
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North Carolina had a record-setting day in winning a wild shootout against Wake Forest, 59-53 at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

The Tar Heels wiped out a 21-point deficit, matching the biggest comeback in school history. That included a 14-point deficit to open the fourth quarter, which also tied a school record.

The game was the second-highest scoring in school history (combined points for both teams) and saw UNC set record for passing yards in a game and total offense.

Sam Howell also had a career day, setting the UNC record for passing yards, total offense, touchdown passes and total touchdown responsibility in a game.

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Howell didn’t just break the records, shattering the passing mark by more than 50 yards and the total offense record by almost as much. He needed to, in order to catch up to Wake Forest’s Sam Hartman, who had a 400-yard passing day of his own.

It took awhile for the defenses to show up at Kenan. In a 5:16 span from the end of the first quarter to the start of the second, the two teams combined for 31 points (four touchdowns and one field goal) in 18 snaps, as the lead changed hands five times. During the wild rumpus, Howell threw touchdown passes of 44 (to Dazz Newsome) and 23 (to Dyami Brown) yards, while Hartman had 40 and 23-yard scoring strikes. The teams average 16.8 yards per play during that stretch.

Wake’s defense then tightened forcing two straight punts and getting an interception inside the 10 right before halftime. That gave Wake an 11-point lead at the break, which it quickly extended to 21 in the third quarter.

UNC then put together one of late-game comebacks that highlighted the previous two losses, at Florida State and Virginia. After stopping Wake just twice in its first eight possessions (not counting a 24-second possession just before half), Carolina was able to hold the Deacons to three three-and-outs on the next four possessions, force four straight punts, followed by a turnover on downs, to put together a 35-0 run.