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Howell, Chandler, Downs help No. 21 UNC beat Virginia 59-39

Despite the loss, UVA QB, Brennan Armstrong had more yards than any Virginia quarterback had ever thrown in any game and more than any North Carolina opponent.
Credit: AP
North Carolina defensive back Don Chapman (2) and teammates tackle Virginia running back Mike Hollins (7) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 18, 2021. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — Up and down the field they went, Sam Howell and North Carolina’s offense ending drive after drive in the end zone whether through the air on the ground.

The 21st-ranked Tar Heels have found some of the offensive rhythm missing in a season-opening loss.

Howell threw five touchdown passes and ran for a career-best 112 yards as North Carolina took over after halftime to beat Virginia 59-39 on Saturday night.

The Tar Heels (2-1, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) scored touchdowns on all five of their second-half drives, which helped turn a 28-24 halftime deficit into a 52-31 lead on Howell’s short TD throw to Kamari Morales with 12:13 left. And after a first-half shootout with Brennan Armstrong and the Cavaliers (2-1, 0-1), North Carolina gave up only a field goal in the third quarter while also coming up with Ja’Qurious Conley’s interception.

Armstrong kept putting up numbers, too, with more yards than any Virginia quarterback had ever thrown in any game and more than any North Carolina opponent had ever surrendered. But there was no keeping up with the Tar Heels in this one.

“It was fun to watch them and both of them put on an absolute show,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said, “and Sam just had more help with the running game.”

Indeed, there were no shortage of offensive stars.

Tennessee graduate transfer Ty Chandler ran for a career-high 198 yards with two touchdowns, the last from 7 yards out with 2:57 left to seal it. And Josh Downs had eight catches for 203 yards and a pair of TDs.

It was UNC’s biggest scoring output against Virginia since 1936 in the long-running series and second-most ever.

“We just played a complete game on offense,” Howell said.

Virginia’s offense did its job, with Armstrong throwing for a program-record 554 yards with four touchdowns. That included a career-best performance for Dontayvion Wicks (seven catches for 183 yards and a score) as the Cavaliers finished with 574 total yards. But coach Bronco Mendenhall could find no positives on defense, saying: “There really wasn’t anything stopped well.”

“There was basically two different games going on,” he said. “There was our offense against their defense and I was really impressed with our off performance. But then there was their offense against our defense, and they clearly won that matchup in every way.”