North Carolina survives Appalachian State upset bid as teams combine for most points in FBS game since 2019

North Carolina State and Appalachian State kick off their 2022 season with one of the craziest games we’ll see in Week 1. The two teams exchanged fiercely back and forth in the final minutes of the game before the Tar Heels escaped Boone with a 63-61 victory.

That 124-point total was the most in an FBS game since UCLA’s 67-63 victory over Washington State in 2019, but what was particularly unique about this game was how the points fell late. Half of the game’s total (62) came in the fourth quarter, including three touchdowns in the final 22 seconds.

Two big swings earlier in the game heralded a wild finish, with each team building comfortable leads at different points. Appalachian State led 21-7 early in the second quarter, but then touted quarterback Drake Mayer led three touchdowns in the final 10 minutes of the first half, Give North Carolina its first lead, 28-21. The Tar Heels continued their offensive success in the third quarter, extending their lead to 41-21 with a series of dramatic and unlikely events in the final 15 minutes of the game.

Appalachian State cut the lead to 41-28 on a long, powerful touchdown before getting the ball back when Mayer fumbled in Game 1 of the ensuing series. The Mountaineers needed just three games to turn the short field into another touchdown, cutting the lead to 41-35 with just over 10 minutes left. The next 3:13 of game time included another touchdown by both teams before the first and only punt of the second half returned the ball to App State with 4:46 left, trailing 49-42. That’s when a 38-yard touchdown from Camerun Peoples tied the score to 49 with four minutes left.

North Carolina, as you might expect based on how the game played out, had another splash game, with a long touchdown catch run from Maye to DJ Jones to give the Tar Heels another 56-49 lead.

Then came the most dramatic sequence of the game, when Appalachia hit a touchdown with 31 seconds left and opted for a 2-point conversion to take the lead. However, Chase Brice’s pass rallied high at an open receiver, and a failed 2-point attempt put the Mountaineers down 56-55.

But the fireworks aren’t over yet.

Appalachian State’s offside attempt was sent back for a touchdown by North Carolina, which extended the Tar Heels’ lead to 63-55 but opened the door for Bryce to tie the game again Chance. Milan Tucker’s return on a 47-yard drive gave Bryce a foothold in North Carolina territory. After two long passes, the Climbers actually scored a touchdown in the end zone, cutting the lead to 63-61 with nine seconds left.

That was when the hearts of App State fans broke, seeing this team leave the mat again and again. Brice was able to free himself from the pocket on a 2-point attempt but was blocked near the goal line. The first 2-point attempt was an opportunity to steal the lead and try to knock it out at home, and the second was necessary to drag the game into overtime. In a game that already contained a high level of drama and intensity, the failure of both attempts only added to the disappointment of the Mountaineers’ 40-22 fourth-quarter rout.

Aside from the frenzy in the final quarter of the game, here are three things to know about North Carolina’s win and what’s next for both teams.

1. Maye builds his profile as a top ACC QB

Maye completed 24 of 36 passes for 352 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions, while finishing second on the team with 76 yards rushing and another score. In his first two games, the redshirt freshman threw for 646 yards and nine touchdowns while completing 72.6 percent of his passes. The younger brother of former North Carolina basketball player Luke Mayer (and son of former North Carolina quarterback Deems Mayer) is fast establishing himself in the minds of Tar Heels fans, but his performance has beyond his lineage. Maye lived up to his blue-chip predictions from high school, and then some. With star receiver Josh Towns sidelined for Saturday’s game, Meyer faced the challenge of getting a lead offense without his best weapons. That response, especially after facing the 21-7 hole in his first road start, suggests that North Carolina has a very good quarterback position in the post-Sam Hower era.

2. App State should move forward without problems

If, say, the Climbers play their next easy non-conference game at ULM, it would be a legitimate concern to think that this mentally and emotionally exhausting experience will linger and affect their game next week. But App State’s next game is at Texas A&M, which means there’s no time for grief. That tough opponent should allow Sean Clark’s team to refresh that experience and move on, as a 12th and a roster full of four- and five-star talent awaits in college town next week.

3. Tar Heels’ defense is a liability

North Carolina’s 2022 cap is on Maye and the offense, and that cap ranks first in the ACC Coastal Division and has a breakthrough in the ACC Championship Game. However, the floor is dictated by the team’s defense, which now looks like it could be a 6-6 or 7-5 caliber group. It was two weeks in a row that offense from outside the top five had effectively moved the ball to the defense, which, on paper, had talent but had actually worked at the point of attack and beat through the air. It’s a good thing North Carolina can score a lot, as it looks like it needs it to win in 2022.

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