North Carolina didn’t need to talk about revenge this week. The Tar Heels just went out and took it from N.C. State on Saturday.
No. 11 UNC jumped all over the Wolfpack in the first quarter and then held on for a 45-34 win to pay back last year’s lopsided loss.
Sophomore running back Elijah Hood ran for a career-high 220 yards and two touchdowns to help the Tar Heels (11-1, 8-0 ACC) equal a school record for wins in a season and claim the mythical state title.
To UNC senior quarterback Marquise Williams, there was no reason to talk about last year’s 35-7 loss to N.C. State (7-5, 3-5) in Chapel Hill or what they were going to do on Saturday.
“We were just going to come in today and let our actions speak,” said Williams, who threw for 174 yards and a touchdown.
A torrential 35-point first quarter said plenty for UNC, which is on the program’s longest winning streak in 116 years and finished the regular season with an unbeaten ACC record for the first time since 1980.
That’s the last time UNC won the ACC title. The Tar Heels will have a chance to win another next Saturday against No. 1 Clemson in the ACC championship game in Charlotte.
If the Tar Heels play anything like they did in the first 15 minutes against N.C. State (7-5, 3-5), they will be difficult to deny.
The Heels scored on their first five possessions and rolled up 308 total yards of offense to reverse last year’s final score in the first quarter.
Running back T.J. Logan (100 yards) ran for two long touchdowns, Hood ran for one and both quarterbacks, Mitch Trubisky and Williams, each threw a touchdown pass in the free-for-all.
While the Tar Heels were rolling, N.C. State coach Dave Doeren described his team as flat in the first quarter.
“I take ownership for (the first quarter),” Doeren said. “We weren’t ready.”
UNC blitzed N.C. State’s helpless defense out of the gate. The Heels’ first four scoring drives covered 73, 91, 75 and 78 yards and none lasted longer than 2 minutes and 2 seconds.
An Andre Smith interception set up UNC’s fifth score, which tied a program record for points in a quarter.
The only time N.C. State was within reach early was after quarterback Jacoby Brissett ran for a 4-yard touchdown to make it 14-7 at 5:41 in the first quarter.
On UNC’s next possession, a late hit by freshman linebacker Riley Nicholson on Williams on third down extended a UNC drive. On the play after the penalty, Williams found receiver Mack Hollins deep for a 53-yard touchdown and a 21-7 advantage.
The Heels punched in two more touchdowns, a 40-yarder by Logan and a 1-yarder by Hood, before the end of the quarter.
N.C. State managed to stop the bleeding after the first quarter and got as close as 35-23 in the third quarter, after a 3-yard touchdown run by Brissett.
N.C. State finished the game with 308 rushing yards, and 514 yards of total offense. Brissett ran for more than 100 yards (128) for the second straight year against the Tar Heels.
Brissett also had a pair of touchdown passes to tight end David J. Grinnage and finished the game with 206 passing yards.
But UNC had the answer in Hood. The 6-0, 220-pound wrecking ball obliterated his previous career outing of 138 yards. That was in the season-opener, a 17-13 loss to South Carolina that seems like a long time ago for UNC, which hasn’t lost since.
Hood ran six times for 38 yards and a touchdown to answer Brissett’s score and push UNC’s lead back out to 42-23. The contrast in this year’s game between the rivals and last year’s could be seen in Hood’s stat line. Dealing with injuries, Hood had one carry for minus-2 yards in last year’s loss.
Even though UNC didn’t talk publicly about the loss, the subject did come up among the team.
“We know what happened last year,” Hood said. “They kind of took it to us for sure. We knew we had to make a statement and come out here and play a different type of game, bring a totally different mindset — had to show we aren’t the same team as we were last year.”
That much is clear with the longest winning streak since the 1898 team went 9-0 and then the 1899 started 5-0.
It was just two years ago, UNC celebrated a win in Raleigh by stomping on the logo at midfield. Just like the revenge talk, there wasn’t any need for that either.
The Heels filed off the field without incident, focused on the bigger goals ahead.