Oct 16, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;  North Carolina Tar Heels running back Ty Chandler (19) runs for a touchdown as Miami Hurricanes safety Gurvan Hall Jr. (26) defends in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

UNC holds off Miami behind Sam Howell’s 4 TDs

Sam Howell passed for two touchdowns and ran for two more scores, while Cedric Gray came up with a crucial interception in the final seconds Saturday as host North Carolina held on for a 45-42 ACC victory over Miami.

Trying to rally late, the Hurricanes had the ball at the UNC 16-yard line with 18 seconds remaining and were in position to send the game to overtime with a 35-yard field goal. But on a third down, Miami quarterback Tyler Van Dyke’s pass was deflected and caught by Gray.

UNC (4-3, 3-3 ACC) beat Miami for the third straight year.

Howell completed 17-of-26 passes for 154 yards with one interception, and he ran for 98 yards on 17 carries. The Tar Heels’ Ty Chandler ran for 104 yards and two touchdowns on 18 carries. Josh Downs had 11 catches for 96 yards.

Miami (2-4, 0-2) never led in losing its second straight game. Hurricanes backup running back Jaylan Knighton scored three touchdowns and produced 165 yards from scrimmage.

Van Dyke, who has been forced into quarterback duty for Miami following D’Eriq King’s season-ending injury, completed 20-of-45 passes for 264 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions.

Miami starting running back Cam’Ron Harris left the game in the third quarter with an injured right leg. He did not return.

The Tar Heels led 31-17 after a dominating first half that included TD runs of 51 and 4 yards by Chandler, and a 48-yard Grayson Atkins field goal. Howell also connected on a pair of TD throws: 45 yards to Downs and a 2-yarder to tight end John Copenhaver on just his second catch of the season.

Miami’s first-half points came on Jahfari Harvey’s 33-yard interception return, Andres Borregales’ 44-yard field goal and Jaylan Knighton’s 2-yard run.

The teams traded third-quarter TD runs – 2 yards by Miami’s Cody Brown and 30 yards by Howell. Miami cut the deficit to 38-34 in the third quarter on a 60-yard catch and run by Knighton.

UNC stretched its lead to 45-34 on Howell’s 11-yard TD run with 9:22 remaining. Knighton’s 4-yard run and Van Dyke’s sidearm pass to Charleston Rambo for a two-point conversion cut UNC’s lead to 45-42 with 3:08 remaining.

–Field Level Media

Sep 30, 2021; Miami Gardens, Florida, USA; Miami Hurricanes quarterback Tyler Van Dyke (9) runs with the ball away from Virginia Cavaliers inside linebacker Nick Jackson (6) during the second half at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Banged-up Hurricanes seek redemption against Tar Heels

Miami Hurricanes quarterback D’Eriq King is out for the year due to a shoulder injury, the team announced this week.

Given that injury to Miami’s star quarterback, it’s no surprise that the North Carolina Tar Heels (3-3, 2-3) are seven-point favorites for Saturday’s ACC game against the visiting Hurricanes (2-3, 0-1).

King was injured in Miami’s third game of the season, against Michigan State.

“It’s now going to be Tyler Van Dyke’s team,” Hurricanes coach Manny Diaz said of Miami’s second-year freshman QB.

Van Dyke’s first career start came last month against an overmatched Central Connecticut State team. Van Dyke completed 10-of-11 passes for 270 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions in a 69-0 win.

Last week, however, Miami lost 30-28 to Virginia as Hurricanes kicker Andy Borregales missed a would-be game-winning 33-yard field goal on the final play. Van Dyke played reasonably well, completing 15-of-29 passes for 203 yards and one TD with no interceptions.

Besides King, Miami is without starting center Corey Gaynor, who had season-ending knee surgery. Key backup running back Don Chaney is also injured.

Then there’s the issue of Miami’s defense, which was humiliated in last year’s 62-26 loss to the visiting Tar Heels.

North Carolina running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams combined to set an NCAA two-player record with 544 rushing yards.

Miami, ranked ninth in the nation at the time, allowed 778 overall yards in that game — the worst performance ever by a Hurricanes defense.

This year, though, the Tar Heels have struggled. They have lost three conference games: 17-10 at Virginia Tech; 45-22 at Georgia Tech; and 35-25 vs. Florida State.

The Tar Heels’ best chance at victory revolves around offensive playmakers such as quarterback Sam Howell, wide receiver Josh Downs and running back Ty Chandler.

Howell, who has started all 31 games since joining the program, is third in the ACC in TD passes (16) and in passing yards per game (282.8). He is also No. 1 among ACC quarterbacks in rushing yards (396), and he is a strong candidate to become an NFL first-round pick in 2022.

“As far as the national attention and NFL stuff, I try not to worry about it,” Howell said. “I try to focus on my team.”

Indeed, Howell, who led the ACC last year with 3,586 yards and ranked fourth nationally with 30 TD passes, has been unable to keep up with that brilliant pace. He had seven interceptions in 12 games last year and has been picked off five times in six games this year. His completion percentage is also off by nearly eight points compared to last year.

That can be explained in part by the Howell weapons who left UNC after last year, looking for pro careers: Carter, Williams and receivers Dazz Newsome and Dynami Brown.

In their place, Chandler, a transfer from Tennessee, leads UNC with 484 rushing yards and five rushing TDs.

Downs, meanwhile, leads the ACC with 741 receiving yards and ranks second with seven receiving TDs. Nationally, Downs ranks fifth with 123.5 receiving yards per game.

— Field Level Media

Oct 9, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels running back D.J. Jones (26) runs with the ball during the first half against the Florida State Seminoles at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Travis (5 TDs) leads FSU past North Carolina

Quarterback Jordan Travis had a hand in all five of Florida State’s touchdowns, leading the Seminoles to a 35-25 win over North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Travis threw three touchdowns and ran for two more. Florida State (2-4, 2-2 ACC) got a career high 121 rushing yards from Travis, plus 145 passing. Travis completed 11 of 13 pass attempts.

North Carolina lost its first game at home this season.

With his team down 10-0 in the second quarter, Travis threw his first touchdown pass to Malik McClain for five yards.

On Florida State’s next possession, Travis used play action to get some space, paused for a moment, then took off over left tackle and scored on a 53-yard run.

After the Seminoles got the ball back via interception, Travis found Ontaria Wilson for the first of two touchdown connections, a 32-yard touchdown for a 21-10 lead with 53 seconds left in the half.

The Tar Heels made it a four-point game in the third quarter after a defensive stand and a six-play, 70-yard drive that ended in quarterback Sam Howell’s 21-yard TD pass to Kamari Morales.

But Florida State, in winning its second straight game, scored two unanswered touchdowns and put the game away.

A 44-yard completion from Travis to Keyshawn Helton, plus a 15-yard roughing-the-passer penalty against North Carolina, set up a one-yard scoring run for Travis. Then the Seminoles drove 83 yards, with Travis finding Wilson for a six-yard touchdown with 1:02 left in the third quarter.

Florida State’s defense stopped North Carolina (3-3, 2-3) on downs early in the fourth quarter at the Seminoles’ 5-yard line.

Howell threw for 203 yards and two touchdowns, surpassing Darian Durant for second place in all-time passing yards in program history. His streak of four straight 300-yard games came to an end.

Howell had 11 carries for 108 yards and Josh Downs caught nine passes for 121 yards, including a touchdown.

The Tar Heels put together a lengthy drive in the fourth quarter, but it consumed far too much game clock despite Ty Chandler’s two-yard touchdown run and the trick-play two-point conversion with 2:47 left in the game.

–Field Level Media

Oct 2, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Gunnar Holmberg (12) is hit by North Carolina Tar Heels linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel (44) as he passes the ball in the second quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Howell fuels North Carolina rout of rival Duke

Sam Howell passed for 321 yards and three touchdowns as North Carolina got back on track with a 38-7 victory against visiting Duke on Saturday afternoon in Atlantic Coast Conference action in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Howell completed 18 of 32 passes without an interception, while the North Carolina defense straightened up after a rough outing a week earlier at Georgia Tech.

The Tar Heels (3-2, 2-2 ACC) claimed a 24-0 halftime lead on their way to a second victory by 20 or more points against a Coastal Division foe. Ty Chandler had a receiving touchdown and a rushing touchdown and Josh Downs caught six passes for 168 yards and a score.

Duke (3-2, 0-1), which won three consecutive games at home, stumbled on the road for the second time this year.

The Tar Heels keep the Victory Bell, which is the prize for the winner of the annual matchup between the neighboring rivals, after winning for the third straight time in the series. Mack Brown, who’s in his second stint as North Carolina’s coach, has directed victories in 11 straight meetings with Duke.

Duke’s Mataeo Durant ran for 114 yards on 19 carries, but he had only 20 yards after halftime.

Howell and Chandler hooked up for a 75-yard pass play in the final seconds of the first quarter for the game’s first points.

The Tar Heels doubled their lead about 90 seconds later when Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg fumbled and Trey Morrison returned the ball 63 yards for a touchdown.

Duke scored on the first snap of the second half on Holmberg’s 80-yard pass play to Jalon Calhoun.

The Blue Devils reached North Carolina territory in the third quarter with a chance to trim a 24-7 hole, but that drive fizzled.

Chandler added a 14-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter before Howell’s 63-yard pass play to Josh Downs accounted for the last touchdown.

Holmberg completed 17 of 24 passes for 184 yards with one TD and one interception. Calhoun finished with 103 yards on six catches.

–Field Level Media

Sep 25, 2021; Durham, North Carolina, USA; Duke Blue Devils quarterback Gunnar Holmberg (12) scores a touchdown during the 1st half of the game against the Kansas Jayhawks at Wallace Wade Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jaylynn Nash-USA TODAY Sports

Duke rides winning streak into matchup at North Carolina

Going into October, Duke unexpectedly appears to be on the rise, while highly touted North Carolina is left trying to figure things out.

The teams meet Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C., with Duke making the short trek for its Atlantic Coast Conference opener.

“This is not who we want to be or who we are,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “We’ve got to learn from it.”

North Carolina (2-2, 1-2 ACC) has lost both of its ACC games away from Chapel Hill, tumbling out of the national rankings following a 45-22 setback to Georgia Tech last Saturday. This wasn’t the prescribed opening month for a team that began the season in the Top 10.

“A lot of things went wrong,” North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell said. “There’s still a lot of football left to be played, so we just have to keep our head up, keep working.”

Duke (3-1) built a three-game winning streak with home triumphs, holding the rare distinction early in the season of a team with two non-league victories against opponents from Power 5 conferences (Northwestern and Kansas).

While that was nice, sterner tests await the Blue Devils, who have already eclipsed their 2020 win total of two.

“It’s getting ready to get real now,” Duke coach David Cutcliffe said. “Here we go with ACC play. We have to get better fast.”

So do the Tar Heels, who kick off three straight home games with their matchup against Duke.

“I think we’ll respond well,” Howell said. “No one expected this out of us four games into the season.”

Duke quarterback Gunnar Holmberg was part of five touchdown plays last Saturday against Kansas. He tied a school record with four rushing touchdowns.

“I just think keeping our composure and being able to respond is something really special about this team,” Holmberg said.

Ownership of the Victory Bell is at stake each year when these teams meet. This will be the 108th meeting overall.

North Carolina has gone 2-0 against Duke since Brown returned to coach the Tar Heels, winning in thrilling fashion in 2019 with a goal-line interception with 14 seconds left and then recording a 56-24 road victory last year. Before that, Duke had a three-game winning streak in the series.

Overall, North Carolina has 10 straight victories in the series with Brown on the sideline. The veteran coach holds a 10-2 mark against the Blue Devils.

–Field Level Media

Sep 18, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Josh Downs (11) catches a touchdown in the end zone as Virginia Cavaliers free safety Joey Blount (29) defends in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

No. 21 North Carolina looks to ignite offense vs. Ga. Tech

No. 21 North Carolina has its offense rolling and Georgia Tech seems to have figured it out on the defensive side.

That could make for an interesting matchup on Saturday night when the teams collide in Atlanta.

The Tar Heels (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) have scored 59 points in consecutive games, with the 20-point win last Saturday against visiting Virginia coming in a shootout-like manner.

“We’re getting back on track and we’re getting an identity and we’re more of who we want to be,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said of the offense.

Georgia Tech (1-2, 0-1) was stingy defensively in last week’s 14-8 loss at then-No. 6 Clemson.

So now it’s another matchup with a nationally ranked opponent for the Yellow Jackets.

“That team that played (at Clemson), that team can play with anybody,” Georgia Tech coach Geoff Collins.

With that, the Yellow Jackets will have to show they’re capable of revving it up again for what Collins calls “a big-time game” against the Tar Heels.

North Carolina ventures on the road for the first time since its season-opening 17-10 loss at Virginia Tech. The Tar Heels dropped two of their last four road games in 2020, so they should be on full alert for this game.

Quarterback Sam Howell was 14-of-21 passing for 307 yards against Virginia, with five of the completions resulting in touchdowns. He had plenty of help with Josh Downs racking up 203 receiving yards and running back Ty Chandler compiling 198 rushing yards.

“Sam’s playing as well as he has ever played, after we didn’t help him much and had the tough start at Virginia Tech,” Brown said of the season-opening loss.

The Tar Heels ended up with a staggering 699 yards of total offense in the Virginia game.

Georgia Tech has outgained each of its first three opponents. The performance against Clemson came with Collins pointing to several encouraging aspects.

“Now we have to find the next step to win those kind of games,” Collins said. “The next step and the next challenge is to see what the leadership in this program can do with this learning experience and make the most out of it.”

Georgia Tech’s defense received a career-high 13 tackles from senior defensive back Tariq Carpenter. His previous best came three years ago with 10 vs. Virginia.

North Carolina’s defense has forced five turnovers – almost half of the 11 takeaways for the entire 2020 season.

“We’ve got more depth, so we’re fresher during ballgames, and we’re stopping the run better,” Brown said. “So by stopping the run better, you have more opportunities because long yardage puts you in a position where you can affect a quarterback.”

This week’s venue in an NFL stadium — rather than playing on Georgia Tech’s campus — was announced in February for this matchup of Coastal Division teams.

The Tar Heels and Yellow Jackets didn’t meet last year because of the restructured pandemic-based schedule. North Carolina won in 2019 in Atlanta.

This marks the Tar Heels’ lone game away from home across a six-week stretch.

This will be North Carolina’s second matchup with a team from Atlanta in a three-week period. The Tar Heels breezed to a 59-17 win over Georgia State on Sept. 11.

–Field Level Media

Sep 11, 2021; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels wide receiver Antoine Green (3) catches a touchdown pass as Georgia State Panthers cornerback Jaylon Jones (27) defends in the first quarter at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Sam Howell leads No. 24 North Carolina to rout of Georgia State

Sam Howell threw three touchdown passes and ran for two scores as No. 24 North Carolina won its home opener by defeating visiting Georgia State 59-17 on Saturday night in Chapel Hill, N.C., helping soothe the disappointment of a loss eight nights earlier.

Howell, a junior who’s the preseason Player of the Year in the Atlantic Coast Conference, made a career-long 62-yard touchdown run in the waning seconds of the third quarter so he became the game’s leading rusher as well.

Howell finished with 104 yards on the ground on 11 carries. He was 21-for-29 for 352 yards in the air.

Georgia State quarterback Cornelious Brown IV threw for 68 yards on 12-for-26 passing.

Howell scrambled 22 yards for the game’s first points to cap the Tar Heels’ opening, six-play possession.

Georgia State, which was blown out at home by Army in its first game, reached the North Carolina 32-yard line on its next drive, but failed to convert a fourth-and-2.

The Tar Heels responded with Howell’s 57-yard touchdown strike to Antoine Green. So it took slightly more than seven minutes for North Carolina to eclipse its point total from its entire opening game — a 17-10 loss at Virginia Tech.

The Panthers’ Dontae Wilson recovered a Howell fumble, giving Georgia State the ball at the North Carolina 19. Though they didn’t advance from there, the Panthers got on the scoreboard with Noel Ruiz’s 37-yard field goal.

It was 21-3 after Howell’s 30-yard pass play to Emery Simmons early in the second quarter.

Brown scored on a 4-yard run for Georgia State on a drive that included 17 plays and consumed 7:30.

North Carolina’s British Brooks scored on a 1-yard run for the first points of the second half and Ty Chandler, a transfer from Tennessee, added a 2-yard TD run later in the third quarter.

North Carolina backup Jacolby Criswell threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Bryson Nesbit for the game’s final touchdown.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) walks off the field after being defeated by the Texas A&M Aggies at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

No. 10 North Carolina starts season at Virginia Tech

It has been nearly a quarter-century since North Carolina’s football team has received this kind of attention entering a season.

That ought to have the 10th-ranked Tar Heels motivated, and it figures to have Virginia Tech on full alert when the teams collide Friday night in Blacksburg, Va.

North Carolina’s stock has risen largely because of last season’s Orange Bowl appearance and the presence of third-year quarterback Sam Howell, who has made lists as a potential Heisman Trophy candidate.

“I know we should be in the Top 10, or higher,” North Carolina wide receiver Emery Simmons said. “But I just think our main focus now is — we’ve got so many non-believers that don’t believe in us that we should be there — so we’re trying to keep our head down and work.”

This opener is an Atlantic Coast Conference game between Coastal Division rivals. North Carolina is the preseason pick to win the division.

Last year in Chapel Hill, N.C., the teams met in early October with both clubs holding national rankings. The Tar Heels won 56-45, racking up 656 yards of total offense with a crowd limited to 7 percent of stadium capacity because of the pandemic.

This time there’s bound to be a different atmosphere at usually raucous Lane Stadium.

“We’re going to a hostile place that’s a very well-coached football team that doesn’t like us very much and has a circle around our head,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “So get better. Quit talking about how good you are and continue to get better.”

Brown is entering his third season since returning to the helm of the Tar Heels. He coached the program to prominence through the late 1990s before heading to Texas.

This marks North Carolina’s highest preseason ranking in 24 years — when Brown was coach for a 1997 team that was undefeated going into a November showdown with Florida State.

It’s not so rosy for Virginia Tech after last year’s 5-6 record, ending a string of 27 consecutive years of bowl appearances. The Hokies lost five of their last seven games.

A better offseason has improved the outlook.

“I feel great about where we’re at and what’s in front of us,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said.

Fuente is in his sixth season in charge of the Hokies, and an upgrade in results is bound to be required to secure his future with the team.

“We’ve got some guys who have made some physical strides that may give them the opportunity to help us from a depth standpoint,” Fuente said. “But they’re going to have to do that on the field before I feel better about it.”

The Hokies haven’t fared well against highly ranked teams in season openers. They’re 0-9 in openers vs. Top 10 opponents, most recently a 2015 loss to No. 1 Ohio State.

The Tar Heels and Hokies have played memorable games in Blacksburg, including Virginia Tech’s six-overtime 43-41 victory two years ago at home. In the Tar Heels’ 2015 visit, they upended Virginia Tech in overtime in legendary coach Frank Beamer’s final home game.

Virginia Tech is 6-3 at home in the series.

North Carolina’s 8-4 record last year came with upset losses at Florida State and Virginia. The mark also included a defeat to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl, which was played without standout North Carolina running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter because they opted out of the game.

Replenishing the backfield behind Howell has been one of the objectives for the Tar Heels. Some of that figures to come with the addition of Ty Chandler, who transferred from Tennessee.

Howell’s 68 touchdown throws are the most in ACC history for a player through two seasons.

–Field Level Media

Sept 12, 2020, Chapel Hill, NC, USA; North Carolina head coach Mack Brown watches his team warm up for the Tar Heels' game against Syracuse on Saturday, September 12, 2020 in Chapel Hill, N.C.. Mandatory credit: Robert Willett/Pool Photo via USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina extends Mack Brown through 2025

Sep 22, 2019; Cleveland, OH, USA; General overall view of  FirstEnergy Stadium before an NFL game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cleveland Browns. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

North Carolina extended football coach Mack Brown’s contract through 2025 on Monday.

The extension maintains the terms of the original deal and keeps the contract length at five years.

Brown, who turns 70 in August, earns $3.5 million per season on the deal he signed in November 2018 to come out of retirement and return to Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Tar Heels finished 8-4 and ranked No. 18 in the final Top 25 poll last season, losing to Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl. They went 7-6 and won the Military Bowl in his first year back in 2019.

“We’re proud of what our football program has accomplished over the last two seasons. Carolina Football is on a great trajectory, and much of that can be credited to our coaches,” athletic director Bubba Cunningham said in a news release. “We’ve worked hard to build continuity with this staff, and we’re seeing the benefits of that on the field, in recruiting, and in the community. We are excited to watch this talented coaching staff continue to lead this program forward.”

In 31 seasons as a head coach, Brown has a 253-127-1 record with 23 bowl appearances (14-9 record) at Tulane (1985-87), North Carolina (1988-97, 2019-20) and Texas (1998-2013).

He guided the Longhorns to a BCS National Championship in 2005 was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2018.

“I want to express my gratitude to the Board of Trustees, Chancellor Kevin Guskiewicz, Bubba and the Athletics Department for understanding the importance of having stability within our coaching staff,” Brown said in the release. “We said, because Sally and I love UNC and Chapel Hill so much, this is the only place we’ll coach, and we plan on doing that as long has we’re having fun, impacting the young men in our program, and giving Carolina football the best chance to win.”

The school also extended all 10 of the Tar Heels’ full-time assistant coaches to three-year deals. In addition, wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway was promoted to assistant head coach and Larry Porter was named the assistant special teams coordinator and running backs coach.

–Field Level Media

Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL, USA; Texas A&M Aggies quarterback Kellen Mond (11) runs the football against North Carolina Tar Heels during the second quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

No. 5 Texas A&M pulls away from No. 13 UNC to win Orange Bowl

Freshman running back Devon Achane ran 76 yards for a tiebreaking touchdown with 3:44 remaining, and No. 5 Texas A&M overcame No. 13 North Carolina to win the Orange Bowl, 41-27, on Saturday night in Miami.

The Aggies, who were denied a spot in the College Football Playoff, scored the game’s final 21 points in the last 10 1/2 minutes. Their 24 fourth-quarter points were the most in the Orange Bowl for a team since Oklahoma in 1958.

Isaiah Spiller scored two rushing touchdown for Texas A&M (9-1), but he departed with an injury, and that allowed Achane to move into the spotlight.

Quarterback Kellen Mond completed 16 of 26 passes for 232 yards.

After the go-ahead touchdown, the Aggies stopped North Carolina’s fourth-and-2 play just 80 seconds later. Achane converted for a 1-yard scoring run, moving his rushing totals to 140 yards on 12 carries.

North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell threw two second-half touchdown passes to Josh Downs. Howell finished 18-for-31 for 234 yards and three touchdowns with an interception.

Howell threw 10 yards to Downs for a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter, completing a 66-yard drive. After Mond’s 4-yard touchdown run at the 10:11 mark, the Aggies clamped down defensively to prevent North Carolina from reaching a first down on its next three possessions.

Texas A&M led 17-13 at halftime after Spiller ran 3 yards for a touchdown with 20 seconds to play in the half. That capped a 75-yard march that consumed more than 4 1/2 minutes for the team’s longest time for a possession in the half.

Texas A&M posted the game’s first points on Spiller’s 9-yard run on a fourth-and-1 play. That followed Andre White’s interception of Howell that set the Aggies up at the North Carolina 28-yard line.

The Tar Heels (8-4) received field goals of 29 and 32 yards from Grayson Atkins before Seth Small’s 25-yarder for the Aggies.

North Carolina went ahead for the first time on Dazz Newsome’s 28-yard reception from Howell with 4:56 left in the first half.

North Carolina running backs Michael Carter and Javonte Williams, receiver Dyami Brown and linebacker Chazz Surratt all opted out of playing in the bowl.

–Field Level Media