Noah Burnett kicked a 33-yard field goal with 2:12 left and the UNC defense came with key stops in the fourth quarter to beat Wake Forest 36-34 on Saturday night, a win that earned the league’s Coastal Division title won.
The Tar Heels (9-1, 6-0) earned it with an away win in a star quarterbacks marquee matchup Drake Maye by UNC and Sam Hartman of Wake Forest. And while the offense was ahead all night, the Tar Heels’ defense stepped in at critical moments to keep them undefeated in league play.
As a result, at the Tar Heels’ dressing room celebration, ACC Assistant Commissioner of Football Michael Strickland walked in to present the team with the trophy for winning the Coastal. It even found its way to the Star Receiver Josh Downs at one point while speaking to reporters near the locker room tunnel afterwards.
“They’ve really accomplished some amazing things and still have some things to do,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “I’ve been talking to them for a couple of weeks about not talking about the coastal (scenarios). I didn’t want to withdraw.
“I didn’t want anyone to lose. I didn’t want them to see someone lose. I wanted us to win and the boys did that.”
Then the Tar Heels pressured Hartman for a fourth penalty with 64 seconds remaining – a moment that had Tar Heels players bouncing around the sidelines in anticipation. The Tar Heels killed the rest of the clock to seal the program’s second trip to the ACC title game and first since 2015 – this one coming with Brown in his second tenure at the school.
Maye threw for 448 yards and three touchdowns, each going to downs, which has continued his tears lately. Downs finished with 11 grabs for 154 yards, with all three of his results coming before halftime.
Hartman threw 320 yards and four touchdowns for Wake Forest (6-4, 2-4). Donavon Greene had two of those results, including a 60-yarder late in the third quarter for a 34-33 lead.
Offense has taken the lead all season while defense has largely struggled for consistency. But that unit came out big here at key moments, which included a fourth stop inside their own 10 yard line early in the fourth. As a result, the Tar Heels improved to 6-0 on the road for the first time in program history, earning a date with No. 12 Clemson for the ACC title on December 3 in Charlotte.
The Tar Heels return home to host Georgia Tech next Saturday.