CHAPEL HILL — For the first time since 1992, Mack Brown has lost back-to-back games to NC State. The Tar Heels continued their late-season meltdown, losing in double overtime to the Wolfpack, 30-27.
Since clinching the ACC Coastal Division and a berth in next week’s ACC Championship Game, the Tar Heels have suffered back-to-back home losses to Georgia Tech and the Wolfpack. The Tar Heels offense, which had topped 30 points in four straight games and nine of 10 on the year, imploded, managing just 17 against Georgia Tech and 27 against the Pack.
Drake Maye, who rewrote the UNC freshman passing record book and threw for at least two touchdowns in each of the first 10 games, has managed a total of one in the last two weeks.
Meanwhile, NC State, who had seven starters miss the last game and entered the game at Kenan on their fourth starting quarterback of the season, jumped on top early and took advantage of some late drama to pull out the upset win.
Ben Finley, whose older brother Ryan was the last Wolfpack quarterback to win at Kenan, completed a 52-yard pass to Devin Carter on the second play from scrimmage, setting up a touchdown. He then hit Terrell Timmons for a 28-yard score in the second quarter to put State up 14-3.
Meanwhile, Maye and the Tar Heels offense continued its deep freeze from last week. UNC went three-and-out on four of its first five possessions.
The Pack led by seven at halftime and, after a scoreless third quarter, Maye finally brought the Tar Heels even, evading a blitz and running 14 yards for a touchdown to knot the score at 17. The score was set up by an 18-yard punt by NC State that set UNC up in Wolfpack territory.
On UNC’s next possession, however, he tried to sidestep an unblocked pass rusher and threw wildly over the middle, where State safety Tanner Ingle made a diving, juggling interception. Three plays later, Finley threw his second touchdown of the game, this one 26 yards to Carter. Finley finished 27 of 40 for 271 yards and outplayed Maye, who went 29 of 49 for 233.
Maye moved the ball inside the 5 on what would be the last possession of regulation. With eight seconds left, he found tight end John Copenhaver, who made a diving catch in the end zone. Replays showed that the ball hit the ground as Copenhaver’s grip slipped, and the pass was ruled incomplete.
State’s sideline erupted in celebration, but officials put two seconds back on the clock, and Maye was able to find Antoine Green in the back of the end zone to tie the game as time expired. After the teams exchanged field goals in the first overtime, State kicker Christopher Dunn hit from 21 yards to put the Pack up three. Carolina couldn’t find the end zone, and kicker Noah Burnette’s 25-yard attempt was no good. Then the State celebration could begin in earnest. Defensive lineman Cory Durden, who was on the field for the missed kick, stood waving goodbye to stunned UNC fans. He then made a lap all the way around the stadium, waving to the disappointed home crowd as he did.
A short time later, State players Devin Carter, Cyrus Fagan and Jordan Houston planted a Wolfpack flag on the UNC logo at midfield, then took turns waving it.
It was all one last bitter pill for UNC to swallow after a championship season took a sharp downward turn.