A week after completing one of the most stunning comebacks in school history, North Carolina won in shocking fashion again on Saturday, with Nick Weiler making a 54-yard field goal as time expired to beat Florida State at Doak Campbell Stadium.
After Weiler’s kick sailed through the uprights to give the Tar Heels a 37-35 victory, he went on the run, his teammates chasing behind. Weiler sprinted around the end zone, doing the tomahawk chop as the Tar Heels finally caught up to him, surrounding him in jubilation.
It was a dramatic, wild finish to a wild game. The Tar Heels led 21-0 midway through the second quarter and 28-14 midway through the third before the Seminoles took a 35-34 lead – possible because UNC missed an extra point on its final touchdown – with 23 seconds to play.
UNC began its final drive from its own 25 and Mitch Trubisky, the junior quarterback, calmly led another fourth quarter drive – his second in two weeks, after UNC beat Pittsburgh in the final seconds last week – to give Weiler a shot from 54 yards out. It was good.
How UNC won
Because, simply put, Weiler made perhaps the most memorable kick in school history. He eclipsed his previous long by 5 yards and told UNC coach Larry Fedora that he felt he could make a field goal if the Tar Heels reached the 35-yard line.
They made it to the 37 with four seconds to play. Fedora considered no other option, and sent Weiler in attempt the field goal. In addition to Weiler’s clutch kick, UNC’s offense dominated on Saturday.
The Tar Heels amassed 538 yards, and Trubisky excelled again, completing 31 of his 38 attempts for 405 yards and three touchdowns. He was calm, especially, during UNC’s last drive, and Weiler’s kick allowed UNC to overcome some mistakes that nearly cost it the game.
What it means
This instantly became the Tar Heels’ best win under coach Larry Fedora. UNC had been seeking a signature, brand-name victory. This qualifies.
Fedora said afterward he didn’t feel a relief of pressure. Instead, he took it as another sign of progress for his program.
UNC had failed to execute, and win, on the big stage so many times in recent seasons: Against Georgia to start the season, against Baylor last season in a bowl game, against Clemson last year in the ACC Championship game, against South Carolina in recent years in nationally-televised games.
This was a victory that changes things for the Tar Heels.
There were several but Weiler’s 54-yard field goal as time expired instantly became one of the most memorable moments in school history. It allowed UNC a victory after a series of gaffes allowed the Seminoles to come back and take the lead with less than 30 seconds to play.
Midway through the third quarter it appeared like UNC defensive end Malik Carney sacked Deondre Francois in the end zone for a safety that would have given the Tar Heels a 30-14 lead. The play was overturned on replay, though, with the Seminoles retaining possession on their own 2-yard line.
And so kept alive a drive that lasted nearly nine minutes.
It ended, after UNC kept it alive by roughing the punter, with Dalvin Cook’s 1-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter. Florida State stopped UNC on its ensuing possession and the Seminoles then tied the game with Cook’s 3-yard touchdown run with about five minutes to play.
UNC scored a touchdown on its ensuing drive but missed the extra point – allowing the Seminoles to take a 35-34 lead in the final minute. You know what happened next.
What an ending.