Saturday's Top 25: North Carolina rallies to beat No. 10 Wake Forest
Chapel Hill, N.C. — For the second straight year, Wake Forest couldn’t protect a big second-half lead at North Carolina. This time, though, it likely cost the 10th-ranked Demon Deacons any chance of playing their way deeper into the College Football Playoff race.
Ty Chandler ran for career highs of 213 yards and four touchdowns and North Carolina overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Wake Forest, 58-55, on Saturday, handing the Demon Deacons their first loss in a nonconference matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference teams.
It ended with the unusual sight of Tar Heels fans storming the field to celebrate a win against their instate foe, though not one that will count toward the league standings.
“I’ve told them: every Saturday you build memories,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said. “That’s what you do. And this 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 included a 50-yard breakaway run with 1:12 left to make it 58-48. That was the final blow for the Tar Heels (5-4) in rallying from a huge third-quarter deficit to beat the Demon Deacons (8-1, No. 9 CFP) for the second straight year, following a 21-point comeback last year by erasing a 45-27 deficit with 7:38 left in the third.
“It just felt like a rerun of last year’s game,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.
“Pretty similar,” quarterback Sam Hartman echoed.
The Tar Heels felt it too, even down big.
“What we were saying on the sidelines is: we’ve been here before,” UNC quarterback Sam Howell said.
The loss doesn’t impact the Demon Deacons’ pursuit of their first ACC title since 2006 since it was part of a home-and-home nonconference series announced in 2015 with the schools not meeting as often amid the expanded ACC’s scheduling model. But the goal Clawson mentioned after last week’s rout of Duke — being in the playoff discussion — is likely gone.
“We just, we weren’t sharp,” Clawson said. “You say that and we scored 50-something 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 as well as North Carolina played, we had to be a little bit 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. A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson each hauled in a pair of touchdown grabs to lead a 615-yard effort from the offense.
But that high-scoring unit, one of the best of the Bowl Subdivision, stalled at a critical time with three straight empty drives. And it came against a much-maligned defense that had struggled to show many tangible signs of improvement this season, a key piece of UNC’s struggles in going from ranked 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 matchup of high-profile quarterbacks. And the Tar Heels scored on their last five full drives, four for touchdowns.
“We were just breathing life into each other and encouraging each other and keeping it going,” Chandler said, adding: “That’s what it came down to: just being able to respond. And we did a great job of that.”
More Top 25
► (At) No. 2 Cincinnati 28, Tulsa 20: Desmond Ridder threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns and Cincinnati held off Tulsa.
Alec Peirce had five catches for 113 yards and a touchdown to help the Bearcats (9-0, 5-0 American Athletic) extend the nation’s second-longest home winning streak to 25 games.
Shamari Brooks rushed for 132 yards for Tulsa (3-6, 2-3), and Anthony Watkins ran for 105.
When Tulsa was stopped short on fourth down at the 4, it appeared the Bearcats would just run out the clock. But Ridder fumbled on a sneak, giving the Golden Hurricane life. On fourth-and-goal from the 1, Steven Anderson fumbled as he was reaching for the goal line, and Jabari Taylor made the recovery for a touchback.
► (At) No. 3 Alabama 20, LSU 14: Bryce Young passed for 302 yards and Alabama’s defense came up with enough big plays for a victory over heavy underdog LSU.
The Crimson Tide (8-1, 5-1 Southeastern Conference, No. 2 CFP) preserved their national championship hopes in a game that was as tight as some meetings when both were nursing such ambitions. The injury-depleted Tigers (4-5, 2-4) and lame-duck coach Ed Orgeron didn’t act like 29½-point underdogs.
It wasn’t over until the final play, a Hail Mary that fell incomplete in the end zone. The Tigers came up empty in three fourth-quarter trips into Alabama territory, including that quick venture to the 30 in the final minute.
Young, the Heisman Trophy front-runner, completed 24 of 37 passes with a couple of touchdowns, including a 58-yarder to Jameson Williams. Williams caught 10 passes for 160 yards. LSU harried Young all night and held Brian Robinson Jr. to 18 yards on 13 carries.
Max Johnson completed 16 of 32 passes for 160 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for LSU. Tyrion Davis-Price ran for 104 yards.
► (At) No. 14 Texas A&M 20, No. 13 Auburn 3: Micheal Clemons scored the game’s only touchdown on a 24-yard fumble return early in the fourth quarter, and Texas A&M beat Auburn.
Clemons’ scoop-and-score came after defensive tackle Jayden Peevy poked the ball away from scrambling Auburn quarterback Bo Nix. Clemons, a 6-foot-5, 270-pound defensive end, picked up the ball and sprinted to the end zone, diving to the ground after he crossed the goal line.
Zach Calzada finished 15 of 29 for 192 yards for Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC), shaking off an apparent injury to his non-throwing shoulder in the third quarter. His performance was was good enough for the Aggies to survive a defensive battle between the two highest-ranked two-loss teams in the country.
Auburn (6-3, 3-2) had its four-game winning streak in College Station snapped.