Final score and commentary: Mack Brown’s mastery of rival NC State fizzles in UNC meltdown

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  • Mack Brown
    Football coach

Follow along live as UNC football plays at NC State in a rivalry game to end the regular season:

RALEIGH — Coach Mack Brown’s run of success against N.C. State fizzled Friday night, as North Carolina melted down in a stunning 34-30 loss at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Emeka Emezie’s two touchdown catches sandwiched around an onside kick recovery allowed the No. 24 Wolfpack to wipe out the Tar Heels’ nine-point lead during the frantic final two minutes of the game.

“I just told the team, we’ve got to finish, that’s all it is,” Brown said. “We’ve got to make the plays that they made down the stretch, and we’ve got to be more mature and we can’t have the penalties. We did everything you could possibly do wrong with two minutes left to not finish the game.”

The dramatic turn of events left Brown digesting his first loss in this rivalry since 1992.

His North Carolina teams had owned N.C. State, winning seven straight meetings in this series. Brown won five straight games against N.C. State as North Carolina’s coach from 1993-97, before leaving for the Texas job.

Since his return in 2019, the Tar Heels had rolled 41-10 (in Raleigh) and 48-21 (in Chapel Hill) against the Wolfpack – until Friday night’s wild ending descended and North Carolina coughed up a 30-21 lead late.

Brown forever has preached the importance of defeating in-state opponents. As North Carolina’s coach, he had been 23-1 across his previous 24 games against N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest.

Grayson Atkins adds to lead for Tar Heels

Grayson Atkins’ short field goal makes North Carolina’s lead 27-21 with 7:44 remaining in the game.

The Tar Heels had first-and-goal on the N.C. State 4-yard line, and called three straight pass plays. Two of them went to Antoine Green, who has been bothered by drops tonight.

The third pass was a dangerous receiver screen to Josh Downs that was broken up. Atkins then converted from 21 yards, after it appeared that coach Mack Brown and the North Carolina stad might consider going for the fourth down near the goal line.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown watches a replay during Friday night’s game against rival N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium.
North Carolina coach Mack Brown watches a replay during Friday night’s game against rival N.C. State at Carter-Finley Stadium.

Sam Howell moves up on Justin Olson's first TD

Justin Olson hauls in the first touchdown catch of his college career, pushing North Carolina ahead 24-14.

That’s 24 unanswered points from the Tar Heels, who have found a roaring response after trailing 14-0 in the first quarter.

Sam Howell hit Olson on the 17-yard touchdown pass, a catch made with N.C. State’s Shyheim Battle in coverage in the corner of the end zone. It marks Howell’s 91st career touchdown pass, moving him past Trevor Lawrence and Deshaun Watson for third place in ACC history.

UNC suddenly seizes momentum to move into lead

Suddenly, North Carolina has the momentum and the lead for the first time.

Sam Howell scampers in on a 12-yard touchdown run on third down to lift the Tar Heels ahead 17-14 in the third quarter. N.C. State led 14-0 in the first quarter.

The Wolfpack had possession to open the second half, but Ricky Person Jr. fumbled on third-and-19 on a tackle by North Carolina linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel. Cedric Gray scooped the fumble and returned it 15 yards to the N.C. State 23-yard line, setting the table for Howell and the Tar Heels offense.

North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary (13) is tackled by North Carolina defensive lineman Raymond Vohasek (51) and linebacker Tomon Fox (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary (13) is tackled by North Carolina defensive lineman Raymond Vohasek (51) and linebacker Tomon Fox (12) during the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Raleigh, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)

Tar Heels weather several issues by halftime

N.C. State has three sacks, two blocked punts, hasn’t turned the ball over and yet North Carolina has been able to weather those issues and trail 14-10 here at halftime at Carter-Finley Stadium.

The 24th-ranked Wolfpack reached the Tar Heels’ 31-yard line in the waning moments of the first half, before the blitzing Cedric Gray nearly sacked Devin Leary and Tomon Fox finished him off for the Carolina defense.

That forced N.C. State to burn its final timeout of the half. Three plays, later Christopher Dunn had to hustle on for a fire drill field goal from 50 yards that never had a chance off his right foot.

Sam Howell's run pulls UNC closer, caps eventful drive

Sam Howell sprints in on a 4-yard touchdown run, pulling North Carolina within 14-10 late in the first half.

It was an eventful scoring drive for the Tar Heels, who saw Antoine Green drop a touchdown pass on a deep ball from Howell, before continuing the march.

British Brooks ran for 16 yards to pick up a fourth-and-1, aided by a slingshot move from offensive lineman Jordan Tucker. Then, tight end Kamari Morales adjusted when N.C. State defensive end hit Howell on a throw, with Morales hauling in the wobbling pass for 20 yards to the Wolfpack 4-yard line.

N.C. State zooms ahead by two scores

Devin Leary hits Trent Pennix in the back of the end zone for a 9-yard touchdown pass, and N.C. State has jumped ahead of North Carolina 14-0 in the first quarter.

Pennix had a couple of steps on Tar Heels defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly. Leary, who has started 5 of 6 passing, didn’t miss with the throw.

Ricky Person Jr.’s hard running helped move the Wolfpack during the drive. He churned out gains of 17, 7 and 16 yards, before Leary connected with Pennix for the score.

Wolfpack swarms, swats for booming start

N.C. State swarms Sam Howell for a quarterback sack on third down, and then swats North Carolina punter Ben Kiernan’s offering.

C.J. Riley pounces for a recovery and touchdown, and just like that the Wolfpack leads 7-0 here in the game’s first 83 seconds.

Jordan Houston had the blocked punt. Daniel Joseph’s sack ended the Tar Heels’ opening possession, after N.C. State’s blitzing Tanner Ingle came free and pressured Howell.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown, right, chats with Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall before the Tar Heels’ victory in September at Kenan Stadium.
North Carolina coach Mack Brown, right, chats with Virginia coach Bronco Mendenhall before the Tar Heels’ victory in September at Kenan Stadium.

Mack Brown rides high in rivalry

Streaks of different stripes collide when rivals North Carolina and N.C. State meet tonight at Carter-Finley Stadium to close the regular season.

The No. 24 Wolfpack owns a nine-game home winning streak and is aiming to polish off its first unbeaten season at home since 1986.

Meanwhile, Tar Heels coach Mack Brown has owned N.C. State.

His North Carolina teams have won seven straight matchups in this series, and haven’t lost to the Wolfpack since 1992. Brown won five straight games against N.C. State as North Carolina’s coach from 1993-97, before leaving for the Texas job.

Since his return in 2019, the Tar Heels have rolled 41-10 (in Raleigh) and 48-21 (in Chapel Hill) against the Wolfpack. Brown forever has preached the importance of defeating in-state opponents, and he’s 23-1 across his last 24 games as North Carolina’s coach against N.C. State, Duke and Wake Forest.

“I’ve always loved the rival games,” he said this week, while also mentioning a motivational pitch to his players. “I said people are going to come up to you 25 years from now and say, ‘Did you beat State? What was your record against State?’ And that’s why this is so crazy.”

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This article originally appeared on Times-News: UNC football final score: Mack Brown’s mastery of NC State fizzles

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