Offense and defense struggle through opening drives.
The Irish finally won a coin toss, electing to receive at the start of the second half. This put the Notre Dame defense on the field to start, but their performance was not what was expected of the usually-solid unit. The Tar Heels plowed through the line, ending the drive in a 12 play, 76-yard touchdown. Despite some good looks from Isaiah Foskey, Marist Liufau and Jack Kiser, by and large UNC dismantled the line without much resistance on their way to the end zone.
When the offense took over, a similar shutdown occurred, only this time it was on the other side of the ball. Two of junior quarterback Drew Pyne’s passes were batted down, effectively stunting the drive in a minute of play. The Irish were forced to punt after only gaining eight yards on the drive.
Michael Mayer puts the Irish in the game on aggressive touchdown drive.
At the start of the second quarter, the Irish began their drive with a first down. Pyne launched the ball to a wide-open Logan Diggs for a 34-yard play after a fake out from junior running back Chris Tyree drew some of the Tar Heels’ defense. Tyree followed up with nine, five and 10-yard gains to put the Irish in a first and goal situation. After the snap, it seemed everyone was covered until junior tight end Michael Mayer flew into the middle for an open pass from Pyne, which he carried into the end zone. The kick from graduate student Blake Grupe was good, tying the score, 7-7, and turning the tides of the matchup.
Consecutive scoring drives put the Irish solidly in the lead at half
After Mayer’s touchdown, the Irish scored on every remaining first-half drive. The defense promptly forced the Tar Heels to punt on the following drive, and when the Irish took the field again, another touchdown was quick to follow. Pyne passed to Mayer in jet-sweep fashion, ending in a gain of seven yards as the tight end shoved his way forward. Sophomore running back Audric Estime clocked a 29-yard rush, putting Pyne in position to deliver a 30-yard touchdown pass to sophomore wide receiver Lorenzo Styles.
On the next offensive showing, after UNC tied the score at 14-14, the Irish capitalized on their third touchdown drive. Tyree found a hole in the defense to rush for a 19-yard gain, and the attempt ended with Estime falling forward one yard into the endzone.
To end the half, the Irish made a field goal attempt after being shut down in the red zone, putting them ahead 24-14.
Pass interference resets drive, leads to touchdown
After starting the half off with a touchdown, the Irish sought to continue their scoring streak on their second drive of the second half. The drive came quickly, as Justin Ademilola recovered a Tar Heels fumble. Pyne hit up Styles for an 11-yard gain to put them in the red zone. His following pass to Mayer was ruled incomplete as the tight end received the ball in the end zone, but the play went under further review. Despite the fact that Mayer had his foot down, his heel was over the line and the ruling on the field stood.
The Irish took a time out when they were 4th and 2, attempting to psych out the Tar Heels by having both the offensive and kicking units out on the field in huddles. Ultimately, the team went for it. After Pyne’s pass was ruled incomplete, a pass interference call was enacted on the defense, resetting the drive to a first down. UNC head coach Mack Brown stormed onto the field to argue the ruling with the refs, only to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty called on him. These calls allowed Estime to soar over the huddle for a touchdown.
Series of penalties causes UNC to unravel; Irish capitalize to extend lead.
In the fourth quarter, a series of penalties were called on the UNC defense. After Estime was pushed out of bounds, unnecessary roughness allowed the Irish to move forward to first and goal at the seven-yard line. On the following play, another personal foul for unnecessary roughness was called when Pyne was hit out of bounds after running the ball. This caused the Tar Heels to begin fighting among their own ranks, which was broken up by the referees and fellow teammates. This drive resulted in another touchdown run for Tyree.
When the defense took the field, JD Bertrand was ejected for targeting, giving the Tar Heels an opportunity for a score. Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye threw two incomplete red zone passes before Omarion Hampton rushed for the touchdown (ND 45, UNC 26). However, freshman cornerback Jaden Mickey broke the pass from Maye during their two-point conversion attempt. This is the second time the Tar Heels’ two-point conversions were thwarted by the Irish defense in the second half.
Despite ending with a touchdown drive, the Tar Heels could not recover, and the Irish took the day with a final score of 45-32.