Notre Dame overpowers North Carolina 45-32
Published 8:29 pm Saturday, September 24, 2022
By BOB SUTTON
CHAPEL HILL — Drew Pyne threw three touchdown passes and Notre Dame finally clicked on offense in a 45-32 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
Audric Estime rushed for two touchdowns and 134 yards and Chris Tyree ran for 80 yards and a score for the Fighting Irish (2-2). Pyne completed 24 of 34 passes for 289 yards.
The outcome resulted in the first road win under first-year coach Marcus Freeman.
The Tar Heels (3-1) were denied their first 4-0 start to a season since 1997.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye threw five touchdown passes, two going to Josh Downs in the first half and two more – covering 144 yards — to Antoine Green in the second half. Maye was 17-for-32 for 301 yards.
Pyne threw second-quarter touchdown passes of 10 yards to Michael Mayer and 30 yards to Lorenzo Styles. The Irish led 24-14 at halftime after Blake Grupe’s 40-yard field goal with 23 seconds left. Notre Dame held a 301-161 edge in total yards in the first half.
The Irish went 75 yards in six plays to open the second half and extended the margin to 31-14 on Pyne’s 29-yard pass play to Logan Diggs, who was alone along the sideline and jogged into the end zone.
North Carolina fumbled on its first second-half snap when Maye dropped the ball in pass formation, giving the Irish the ball at the Tar Heels’ 15. One play after a fourth-down defensive pass interference penalty followed by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Tar Heels coach Mack Brown, Notre Dame converted on Estime’s 1-yard lunge.
The Tar Heels took the first gamble of the game on the opening possession and it paid off with Maye’s fourth-and-goal pass of 4 yards to Downs. Maye threw for 39 yards and rushed for 33 on the opening drive. Downs had been out since he suffered a lower-body injury in the Aug. 27 opener.
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Notre Dame, which has a scheduling agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference and played as a league member during the pandemic-impacted 2020 season, has won 25 consecutive regular-season games against ACC opponents. This was the first of four meetings against ACC members this year.
Notre Dame: The Fighting Irish unleashed sustained offense, producing more than 285 yards both on the ground and in the air. After three games with tight margins into the fourth quarters, this turned out to be a relatively stress-free final 15 minutes.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were coming off an open week, but they didn’t solve defensive woes that threatened to derail them in their previous two games. They’re done with non-conference games, so they’ll have to sort out the defensive shortcomings in ACC play.
Notre Dame has more work to do before reappearing in the Top 25, but this was a strong step. The Irish spent the first two weeks in the Top 10 and then tumbled out of the poll following a home loss to Marshall.
North Carolina had moved just a few spots away from the Top 25, and a victory Saturday might have lifted the Tar Heels into the rankings. Instead, they’re headed the other direction.
Notre Dame: Oct. 8 vs. Brigham Young at Las Vegas.
North Carolina: Hosts Virginia Tech on Saturday.