Notre Dame outraces North Carolina, 50-43
Kit Loughran | Sunday, October 12, 2014
The Irish remained undefeated with a 50-43 win over North Carolina on Saturday at Notre Dame Stadium.
Senior quarterback Everett Golson threw for 300 yards and three touchdown passes to help No. 6 Notre Dame (6-0) reach its 12th home victory over North Carolina (2-4). The Tar Heels put up a fight on the road, forcing three turnovers in the highest-scoring game played in the 84-year history of Notre Dame Stadium.
“Sometimes it’s not perfect, but they know how to win,” Irish coach Brian Kelly said. “So the one thing that’s constant in that locker room is these guys know how to win football games. We would like it to be a little bit cleaner, certainly, but, again, when you’re dealing with an offense like North Carolina’s, which we knew was going to be problematic for us.”The game did not open well for the Irish. Golson fumbled and Tar Heels junior safety Sam Smiley recovered the ball at the 28-yard line. Tar Heels freshman running back Elijah Hood, who had originally committed to Notre Dame, rumbled six yards for a touchdown, putting North Carolina up 7-0 less than two minutes into the first quarter.
North Carolina junior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer then intercepted a Golson pass intended for senior tight end Ben Koyack and ran it back for a touchdown. A fumble and interception in the first seven minutes tested the Notre Dame offense’s composure, which Golson said was key that they maintained.
“Just having that faith, and not believing that we were going to lose this game, that we were going to find a way to pull it out somehow,” Golson said.
With that faith, the Irish began to move the ball on their third drive. Golson completed a pass to sophomore running back Tarean Folston for 37 yards. Golson ran for a first down and a gain of 15 yards and followed that with a pass to sophomore wide receiver Will Fuller for a gain of 23.
Golson then found Fuller in the end zone for an Irish touchdown. The 13-yard completion marked Fuller’s sixth touchdown of the season.
The Golson-Fuller combo propelled Notre Dame’s next drive once again. Golson completed a pass to Fuller for 11 yards and a first down as the first quarter came to a close.
Senior running back Cam McDaniel then scored on a one-yard carry during the first few seconds of the second quarter. The Irish shut down North Carolina’s offense and completed another scoring drive of their own with a seven-yard rushing score by sophomore running back Greg Bryant to go up 21-14. At that point, after the Tar Heels’ two early touchdowns, Notre Dame scored 21 unanswered points and gained 283 yards compared to North Carolina’s 15.With roughly four minutes to play in the first half, Notre Dame pressured the Tar Heels offense and held it at the one-yard line, but Tar Heels quarterback Marquise Williams eventually scrambled into the end zone with four minutes to go. Junior defensive line Jarron Jones blocked the extra point to hold the Tar Heels to 20 points.
With three minutes left in the half, running back Elijah Hood fumbled and Irish junior safety Elijah Shumate recovered the loose ball. Sophomore running back Tarean Folston followed with a six-yard rushing touchdown. North Carolina responded with a strong drive of 75 yards that ended in a 20-yard touchdown from Williams to junior wide receiver Quinshad Davis. Notre Dame stopped North Carolina’s two-point extra point attempt to hold the score 28-26.
The Irish started the second half in a much different fashion than the first and capitalized on their running game. Folston ran for a total of 19 yards on two rushes, while junior wide receiver C.J. Prosise had a 12-yard gain in his second rushing attempt of the season. Golson then found Fuller for a short pass, and Fuller ran the ball for a 35-yard touchdown play.
North Carolina’s next possession resulted in a 15-yard field goal after sophomore safety Max Redfield had the tackle on third-and-four. Notre Dame regained possession, but on the first play of the drive, Golson scrambled and Tar Heels sophomore cornerback Brian Walker forced a fumble. North Carolina capitalized on the Irish mishap and scored on a 23-yard touchdown pass to jump in front 36-35 after the extra point.
Notre Dame was forced to punt on its next drive following Golson’s incomplete pass on third down. After two subsequent false starts, a personal foul — roughing the snapper — by the Tar Heels gave the Irish an automatic first down.
Continuing the drive, Golson opened the fourth quarter with a long pass to Fuller on which the Tar Heels were called for pass interference. An illegal shift and holding penalty pushed the Irish back 18 yards. Golson found Folston once again for a nine-yard touchdown pass. Golson then found senior tight end Ben Koyack for the two-point conversion to take the lead, 43-36.
Irish sophomore cornerback Cole Luke intercepted Williams’s pass intended for sophomore wide receiver Bug Howard. The Irish finished the drive with Folston’s six-yard touchdown run. Folston finished with 98 yards rushing on 18 carries and two touchdowns.
“We got into a really good rhythm with [Folston] in there, tough yardage, breaking tackles, running through tackles, and that’s what we’ve been asking the backs to do, is to run through tacklers,” Kelly said. “They’re physical, strong backs, and once we saw he was going to run in that kind of manner and demeanor, he was going to get more carries and he got the game ball today.”
The Tar Heels responded with a touchdown of their own. Williams completed an 18-yard pass to sophomore wide receiver Mack Hollins in the end zone with 47 seconds on the clock. The Tar Heels couldn’t recover an onside kick attempt, so the 50-43 score held. The Irish now look toward Saturday’s matchup against No. 1 Florida State.
“They will be ready to play their very best against Florida State,” Kelly said. “But the nice part about it is we got great film and great teaching off of another win, that’s the best thing about it.”
The Irish take on No. 2 Florida State on Saturday in Tallahassee, Florida, at 8 p.m.