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Heel Tough Blog: Wake Forest Recap

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For the first time since 2015, the Tar Heels are heading to Charlotte to play for an ACC Championship. The team wrapped up the Coastal division and completed a perfect season on the road with a 36-34 win over Wake Forest, their first win in Winston-Salem since 2004. Here is a look at our takeaways from the victory.

This Team Is Currently as Clutch as Any in the Country

One of the biggest issues that this Tar Heel team had under Mack Brown these past three years was closing out close games, especially on the road. This season, it is where the team has thrived. Saturday was another example of that, as the Tar Heels trailed the entire 4th quarter after Wake took a 34-33 lead, but the Tar Heels made the winning plays when they needed to. The Demon Deacons were 4-4 on 4th down heading into their final three drives of the game, but the Tar Heel defense would force turnovers on downs on each of their final two 4th down attempts. Sandwiched in between those two stops on downs was arguably the most important play of the night, Cam’Ron Kelly’s interception off of Hartman which completely flipped momentum after Wake was driving to essentially end the game. With the ball back in the offense’s hands, Drake Maye would find Josh Downs for a 43 yards completion, which would set the Tar Heels up for what ended up being the game-winning 33-yard field goal from Noah Burnette, who made up for an earlier extra point miss that loomed large the entire second half. Brown said all summer long how this team simply didn’t make the winning plays last year. This year, they have figured out how to make them and so far they are making each and every week.

Josh Downs Has Turned it On at the Right Time

There has not been a point this season where Josh Downs has been on the field and not been effective, but these last two weeks, he has taken things to another level. After one of the best performances of his entire career last week against Virginia, he had another huge night against a beaten and battering Wake Forest secondary. His first half was as dominant as any half that we have seen from a receiver in college football this season, as he hauled in eight catches for 101 yards and three touchdowns. His second half was much quieter, but he made the huge 43-yard catch late in the 4th quarter that would lead to the game-winning points. He finished the game with 154 yards and three touchdowns on eleven catches, the fourth week in a row that he has had more than 100 yards receiving and the second straight with more than 150. The Tar Heel offense has needed him to step up in these past couple of weeks and play like he did at times a year ago. He has done exactly that, helping to lead the Tar Heels to two big road victories.

Drake Maye Making Strong Push for the Heisman

Last week officially put Maye on many national folks' Heisman radar, but this week took things to a whole other level. In what was the team’s toughest test to this point in the season, he put together the best performance of his career, totaling 517 yards of offense and finding the end zone four more times, all while on national television in a primetime spot. He carried the team on his back for the majority of the first half and while his second half wasn’t nearly as dominant as some of his others this season, he made the plays that he needed to, including his touchdown run in the third quarter and the big throw to Downs on the final drive. Every time that there is a challenge thrown his way, Maye has answered it this season and this performance, which might have been the best of any of the Heisman contenders on Saturday, should be enough to secure his ticket to New York City for the Heisman presentation. It should also show that he is a serious contender to take home the award this time next month.

This Is What We Envisioned With Mack Brown

Last year’s struggles had many wondering whether or not Mack Brown would be able to do what he set out to do when he returned to Chapel Hill. This year has proven that he is more than capable of getting the to that point. This team has achieved one of their goals already with the Coastal division title, but they have a chance to do much more than that in the final three games of the season. The key to this year’s success has been the Tar Heels finally being able to do two things that they couldn’t do prior to that: win close games and win games on the road. This team has also done a much better job handling pressure than the previous two teams, especially in the last few weeks when have been trailing. With what this team has done so far this season, it’s time to start talking about Mack Brown as a serious Coach of the Year candidate.

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