Behind an incredible performance from quarterback Drake Maye, North Carolina prevailed in a 36-34 shootout at Winston-Salem. Maye had over 500 yards rushing and through the air, adding four touchdowns.
Read below for our full roundup of the game.
Starting with the ball, the highlight of Wake Forest’s opening drive was a 20-yard run by Judge Ellison on the first play from scrimmage. That carry alone totaled more than the Deacs’ total net yardage in the field against NC State. But, a waiting penalty and false start moved Wake behind the sticks, and the team was forced to punt.
After converting 3rd and 4th for the team’s first downs, quarterback Drake Maye took to the air to drive the Tar Heels downfield – 25-yard and 14-yard passes pushed the ‘UNC in the Wake Forest Territory. Then a 17-yard sideline pass to a wide-open TE Bryson Nesbit and a 12-yard connection with Josh Downs put the heels on the board first.
The Deacs kept the ground game going in their second practice, but a controversial no-call on a face mask stalled any momentum from Wake Forest. For the second time in as many possessions, Wake kicked.
Following a 24-yard run from Elijah Green, Maye uncorked a 45-yard bomb to Antoine Green to take UNC deep into Wake Forest territory. From there, the old green finished the job with a five-yard run, staying intact in the end zone to give North Carolina a two-touchdown lead.
On their third possession, Sam Hartman and the Wake Forest offense finally found their footing. In a drive that included several productive rushes from Ellison, Hartman worked the middle lanes to his receivers — completing passes for 16, 14, 6 and 13 yards. Inside the Heels’ red zone for the first time in the game, Hartman then found Taylor Morin on the flat, and he waltzed for the score.
After starting the 36 on a nice kick return, Maye and the heels attack beat a 3rd-and-10 with a 12-yard completion at the Downs. Two more passes combined for 27 yards put the Deacs on their heels on their own 10-yard line leading into the second quarter.
After being sent down 15 yards on a block below the waist, North Carolina still found a way to win the first down on an 11-yard completion against Elijah Green and a 7-yard run to the belly. In a coverage breakdown, Downs easily found the end zone on a pass from Maye for his second score of the game.
After a 15-yard completion to Banks, Hartman missed Banks again on a through pass. On the fourth and short, Hartman found Ke’Shawn Williams in the slot for what initially appeared to be a small gain for the first down. But, Williams slipped away in midfield and rumbled 40 yards to the goal line. After being unable to find paying dirt on their first three attempts, Wake Forest opted to go for the score on fourth down on the goal line. Behind a big push in the back from Hartman, Christian Turner rebounded and brought the Deacs back with a touchdown.
After making the initial first down on the disc, the Deacons defense strapped in to stop Maye and attack. Jasheen Davis stunned the Heels with two sacks to stop North Carolina for the first time all game. Then a short punt was cut even further to a facemask that got Wake Forest off to start at UNC 36.
Faced with a tough decision in fourth and third position, head coach Dave Clawson kept his attack down the field and was rewarded with a 22-yard pass down the middle to Morin. On the very next play, Hartman patiently waited for an open teammate and found Donavon Greene alone for the score. With that, the score was tied again for the first time since kick-off.
Aided by a targeted call against Wake Forest safety AJ Williams, North Carolina once again stepped onto the field behind Maye. After achievements of 14 and 12 yards, Maye himself took the ball from 19 yards on the ground. Then, with the best ball of the first half, the redshirt rookie hit Downs on a deep left post for their third touchdown connection of the night.
After a quick three-and-out that ended in a 14-yard Hartman sack, the Heels started their own 40 with a chance for a final score before halftime, but several big saves gave away the ball to the Deacs with one minute remaining. on the clock and a full set of timeouts.
After beating the first third of the half, Maye did it again on the third and seventh, avoiding the rush and finding JJ Jones on a dime over 25 yards. After an unsuccessful third pass into Wake Forest territory, LB Ryan Smenda interrupted a fourth attempt for a critical turnover to open the half.
Behind a balanced attack, Wake Forest marched up the field – Hartman completed passes from seven and four yards, then Ellison rushed three times in a row for 21 yards in total. On the next play, Hartman led AT Perry perfectly into the end zone to give the Deacs their first lead of the game.
Trailing for the first time, Maye immediately returned to the air, hitting tight ends John Copenhaver and Bryson Nesbit for a combined 46 yards. Then, on an intimidating third and five, Maye escaped Wake Forest’s pass rush and ran for the score. With the extra point previously missed, North Carolina opted to go for two, which wasn’t good on a swing run.
On the third play of the next drive, Hartman uncorked a perfect pass that found Donavon Greene in stride for a 60-yard touchdown, giving Wake Forest a 34-33 lead.
Again, Maye mixed runs and passes well to work the attack on the pitch. After completing a 22-yard pass, he rushed for 15. Then, after an 11-yard connection, he rushed for another 18. The heels then rose on the goal line, entering the fourth quarter with a key third and- short.
After another runaway goal-line save, North Carolina kept the offense on the field for fourth down – on a design pass to the left, DB Isaiah Wingfield tipped the ball on the way to his intended receiver, giving Wake Forest another key turnover. and allowing them to retain the lead.
To get out of the goal line, Wake Forest relied on the relentless legs of reserve running back Quinton Cooley – on four consecutive carries, Cooley gained 34 yards. On third down, Hartman found Morin at center, who turned a short catch into a 46-yard gain. Then it was Ellison’s turn — he took four carries for 17 yards to get to the UNC nine-yard line. On fourth down, Hartman narrowly missed the run, giving the ball back to the Heels.
After giving up a first down, Wake Forest closed the door on the Tar Heels’ offense, stuffing Maye on back-to-back rushes to force a punt.
With an opportunity to run the clock, the Deacs got Turner’s legs first down. Then, on the next third down, Wake Forest got a save pass interference call on a pass to Greene. At the worst possible moment, Hartman failed to see a safety undercut his receiver and threw his first interception of the game.
On the first play from scrimmage, Maye found Downs from 43 yards to enter Wake Forest’s red zone. But, a critical sack and false start put UNC back 11 yards. On third down, Maye kicked the ball out of bounds, sending his kicking team out. From 34 yards, Noah Burdette split the uprights, giving North Carolina a two-point lead.
With a hold call putting Wake Forest behind the sticks, Hartman was forced to throw a desperation ball on fourth down. The incompletion returned the ball to North Carolina in Deacs territory with just over a minute left. Wake Forest still had three timeouts.
North Carolina managed to run the clock, allowing them to walk away with a hard-fought 36-34 win.
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