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UNC football holds off App State in 2OT. Three takeaways from the Tar Heels’ 40-34 win

After a deluge of rain in the Triangle on Saturday morning and early afternoon, North Carolina took the field with dry conditions and a pleasant 70-degree temperature later in the day at Kenan Stadium.

That lasted only about a half, but those who stuck through some later inclement weather — and that was almost everyone — were treated to some extra football.

In UNC’s home-opener, the Tar Heels missed a field goal as time expired in regulation, but on the back of workhorse Omarion Hampton rumbled for a touchdown in each of the two overtimes Saturday to hold off Appalachian State, 40-34, in the second consecutive thriller between the clubs in the past two seasons.

Hampton finished with 26 carries for 234 yards and three TDs. Quarterback Drake Maye went 21-for-30 for 208 yards. He didn’t have a passing TD, but his one rushing TD was the winner in the second overtime.

Here are three more takeaways from Saturday’s game:

Maye is Maye

It was the kind of play NFL types like to see when eyeing the college guys and especially QBs. After UNC fell behind ASU 24-20 in the fourth quarter, quarterback Drake Maye teamed up with J.J. Jones on a 57-yard pass play that set up a go-ahead touchdown.

The protection was good and Jones was open crossing over the middle deep. Maye’s throw had plenty of Joe Burrow-like zip and crispness to it. Omarion Hampton, having a career day with 234 yards rushing and three scores, took it from there, bulling his way to the end zone from seven yards on the next play.

Maye will not have wide receiver Tez Walker this season. Wideout Nate McCollum has been slowed by an injury but did dress Saturday. Running back British Brooks was not available because of a lower-body injury.

But Maye is Maye. After a very pedestrian first half — 43 yards passing — Maye properly used the weapons available to him in the second half and overtimes and got the win. That’s all he wanted.

App State finds a QB

App State coach Shawn Clark noted this week that quarterback Joey Aguilar was one of those cool California guys who liked to sling the ball around and didn’t get rattled.

That sounded a little like coachspeak. Aguilar, a junior-college transfer from Diablo Valley CC, would be making his first start Saturday against the 17th-ranked Heels, on the road. It would be against a team that sacked South Carolina’s Spencer Rattler nine times a week ago.

But Aguilar’s quick release on his throws didn’t allow the Heels to get close enough in the pocket for much of the game. Agile at 6-4 and 220 pounds, Aguilar also had some timely runs for the Apps. He’s a good one.

UNC defense gets job done

App State didn’t score 61 points this time. The Mountaineers moved the ball and scored points and had some explosive plays, but the UNC defense made just enough plays that counted.

One of the biggest: Don Chapman’s pick of an Aguilar pass in the third quarter. LInebacker Ced Gray pressured Aguilar as he rolled out of the pocket and Chatman stepped in near the left sideline for the interception.

The sacks weren’t there this night but UNC’s defense did enough to win it, stopping App State in the second overtime.

Here were the updates from earlier in the game:

Drake Maye rush TD gives UNC lead

After two more rushes up the middle from Hampton, Drake Maye faked it to him and kept the ball, scampering around the left end to score another TD. Now forced to go for two, Maye tried to jump for the pylon on an RPO to the right and did not make it.

UNC answers on Hampton TD

Omarion Hampton touched the ball on all three plays for the Heels, the last a 17-yard scamper off the left side for a score. PAT was good. One OT in the books.

App State TD in OT

Nate Noel rushes up the middle for a TD on a first-and-goal from the 7, giving the Mountaineers the lead. After the PAT, 34-27.

UNC missed FG sends game to OT

After many theatrics at the end of the game, with kneel-downs and timeouts after a last-minute drive, the game is ultimately headed for OT after UNC kicker Ryan Coe hooked a 39-yard field goal attempt wide left.

App State FG ties the game late

Michael Hughes tucked his kick inside the left upright with 1:22 to play in regulation to lift App State into a tie at 27-27 with UNC. The Heels took a pair of timeouts later in that drive to leave themselves some clock after the kickoff.

Hampton TD puts UNC back in front

One play after a deep ball from Drake Maye to JJ Jones over the middle for 57 yards, Omarion Hampton took the handoff and scampered the remaining seven yards to a touchdown. The 4-play, 75-yard drive covered just 1:25 of clock, and showed off Maye’s arm. Hampton is now up to 192 yards rushing and two TDs on 18 carries.

Noel’s TD run pushes ASU in front

Quarterback Joey Aguilar shook off a third-period interception to lead the Apps back in front. Aguilar hit Miller Gibbs for 19 yards on fourth down, then hooked up with Dalton Stroman on an 18-yard throw on third-and-9 at the UNC 36.

Nate Noel’s 7-yard scoring run back it 24-20 with 10:44 left in the fourth

Heels convert turnover into lead

Don Chapman’s interception of a Joey Aguilar pass led to the Heels taking a 20-17 lead. with 1:25 left in the third quarter.

Aguilar, under pressure, had his pass picked off by Chapman at the UNC 36. The Heels picked up fiur first downs before bogging down inside the ASU 15 and Ryan Coe’s 31-yard field goal pushed UNC into the lead.

Key conversion helps Heels tie score

Drake Maye, pressured in the pocket and about to be sacked, stepped up to shovel a third-down pass to Omarion Hampton for a first down and the Heels moved in for a tying score. The 10-yard play came on third-and-4 from the UNC 31.

After Maye found Kobe Paysour for a 29-yard gain, Caleb Hood scored on a 5-yard up the middle to tie the score 17-17 in the third.

App State starts second half with TD

ASU took a 17-10 lead in the opening minutes of the second half, zipping 75 yards in 6 plays as Joey Aguilar found Dashaun Davis open for a 33-yard score. Davis broke away from safety Gio Biggers and was open on the left side.

Tie score at halftime

The Heels and Apps are 10-10 at the half, with App State outgaining UNC 219 yards to 208 and containing UNC quarterback Drake Maye.

Maye was 9-of-12 passing for 43 yards in the opening half as ASU quarterback Joey Aguilar finished with 108 yards by completing 11 of his 20 throws.

UNC running back Omarion Hampton had 126 yards on eight carries in the half, breaking off a 68-yard TD run in the second quarter.

North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton (28) hurdles over Appalachian State’s Jordan Favors (11) after a 31-yard gain in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton (28) hurdles over Appalachian State’s Jordan Favors (11) after a 31-yard gain in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

Heels tie score 10-10 on Coe FG

App State stymied a UNC drive with a sack of Drake Maye but Ryan Coe’s 47-yard field goal tied the score 10-10.

UNC running back Omarion Hampton, who scored on a 68-yard run earlier in the second period, had a 31-yard burst during the drive and has 126 yards rushing in the first half.

App State ran 42 plays to UNC’s 29 and had seven more minutes of possession time. App State converted five of 10 third downs and did not allow a sack -- UNC had nine sacks in its opener against South Carolina.

North Carolina’s Power Echols (23) stops Appalachian State quarterback Joey Aguilar (4) after a seven-yard gain in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
North Carolina’s Power Echols (23) stops Appalachian State quarterback Joey Aguilar (4) after a seven-yard gain in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

ASU’s Aguilar stars in TD drive

Aguilar, a juco transfer from California, spurred a 9-play, 75-yard scoring drive as ASU countered UNC’s TD.

Aguilar converted a third down with a 7-yard run, hit Dashaun Davis for 34 yards, then threw 5 yards to Eli Wilson for the score and 10-7 lead.

Appalachian State’s Eli Wilson (87) scores on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Joey Aguilar in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
Appalachian State’s Eli Wilson (87) scores on a 5-yard pass from quarterback Joey Aguilar in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

UNC responds quickly

After the Mountaineers took a 3-0 lead on a 46-yard field goal by Michael Hughes, the Tar Heels immediately responded. Hampton, in the starting lineup with British Brooks injured, shook loose off the left side for a 68-yard scoring run.

North Carolina offensive lineman Zach Rice (55) hoists running back Omarion Hampton (28) after a 68-yard romp for a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
North Carolina offensive lineman Zach Rice (55) hoists running back Omarion Hampton (28) after a 68-yard romp for a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 7-3 lead in the second quarter on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

App State takes the lead, 3-0

After a scoreless first period, the Mountaineers converted a fourth-and-2 play at the UNC 49 and took the lead on a 46-yard field goal by Hughes, the longest of his career, early in the second.

Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark reacts after a defensive stop in the first quarter against North Carolina on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com
Appalachian State coach Shawn Clark reacts after a defensive stop in the first quarter against North Carolina on Saturday September 9, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett/rwillett@newsobserver.com

No Tez

UNC learned Thursday that the NCAA had ruled wide receiver Tez Walker ineligible to play this season. The NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief determined Walker was a two-time transfer who did not qualify for a waiver and would have to sit out this season.

UNC coach Mack Brown said early in the week that Walker could take a legal route if denied by the NCAA. Raleigh attorney Robert “Bob” Orr said Saturday Walker should consider a lawsuit or that UNC could decide to play him and defy the NCAA.

Walker again did not dress for the game. He served as an honorary captain, drawing a big round of cheers when he was introduced before the opening coin toss.

Injury update

UNC said running back British Brooks was doubtful to play because of a lower-body injury. Brooks, who missed the 2022 season with a knee injury, was the Heels’ leading rusher last week in the 31-17 win over South Carolina.

Omarion Hampton started at running back for the Heels.

Left guard Ed Montilus also missed Saturday’s game with a lower-body injury, UNC said.