On December 27, the 6-6 Tar Heels were looking for a way to finish their turn-around season strong with a dominating win in the Military Bowl against the Temple Owls.
From the first quarter of play alone, it did not look as if either team would have to worry about getting blown out. The first score of the game was a 39-yard touchdown catch by Carolina’s star receiver, Dyami Brown. This was set up by a 24-yard run by freshman quarterback Sam Howell, who has not run the ball incredibly well this year, but was able to break away from multiple Temple defenders by heading towards the sideline then cutting back to the middle of the field.
On their first drive of the second quarter, the Tar Heels increased their lead to 10 with a 26-yard field goal by Noah Ruggles.
The Owls responded on their next drive though, scoring in just over two minutes. However, UNC’s special teams blocked the point after attempt and keep the score at 10-6.
After another Carolina touchdown the score was 17-6, and the Tar Heels were set to kick a field goal to end the half. It appeared Temple’s special teams had turned the game around, blocking the kick and returning it for a touchdown. Except there was an offside call on Temple lineman Quincy Roche, allowing Carolina to have another chance at bumping up the margin. The halftime score was 20-6.
Heading into the locker rooms at the half, the majority of the Temple players looked as if they had already been defeated, with many of their heads hanging low. They knew they had missed their chance to turn the momentum in their favor, and that they may not get a chance like that again.
The second half was all Tar Heels. Freshman Storm Duck returned an interception for 6 more points on Temple’s first play of the second half, and Carolina scored touchdowns on each of their remaining possessions but one.
To wrap up the game, senior running back Antonio Williams scored his third rushing touchdown of the season, by leaping over the pile of linemen between him and the end zone. The final score was UNC 55, Temple 13.
Howell finished the game with 294 yards, three passing TDs and one receiving TD. Sophomore running back Javonte Williams also had a big game with 85 yards on 14 carries. But the clear MVP for the Military Bowl, and the season, was Howell.
Head coach Mack Brown was clearly emotional during the trophy presentation saying, “This group, and especially these seniors, have been through so much. I’m just happy we were able to send them off the right way.”
This wrapped the season up well for a team that has struggled in recent years. The big reason for this is MACK IS BACK!