Sam Howell enters the Heisman chat, leads UNC comeback in shootout with Wake Forest

Sam Howell has entered the (Heisman) chat.

You can’t have a much better game than Sam Howell did against Wake Forest on Saturday. UNC’s true sophomore completed 32 of 45 passes (71.1 percent) for 550 yards and six touchdown passes, breaking the school’s single-game record for passing yards and touchdown passes. He also added a rushing touchdown as he led the Tar Heels to a 59-53 comeback victory.

Howell got started early, completing 12 of 14 for 232 yards and two scores just in the first quarter. He finished the first half with 323 yards and three touchdowns, the lone blemish coming on a late interception by Wake Forest’s Ja’Sir Taylor that at first looked like a 49-yard catch by Dyami Brown before it was wrestled away by Taylor.

In spite of Howell’s dominance throughout the entire game, North Carolina trailed 35-24 at halftime, 45-24 in the third quarter and 45-31 heading into the fourth. But the UNC defense gave Howell a chance by forcing three straight punts; Howell responded with consecutive touchdown passes to tie the game. A 20-yard touchdown scramble on third-and-10 gave the Tar Heels a 52-45 lead with 4:11 remaining.

As great as Howell was on Saturday and has been all season, he’s far from UNC’s only star on offense. Dazz Newsome (10 catches, 189 yards and two touchdowns) and Dyami Brown (eight catches, 163 yards, two touchdowns) proved they’re two of the most explosive receivers in the country. The Tar Heels might have the best one-two punch at running back in the country as well in Michael Carter and JaVonte Williams. Carter, the speedster, had 16 rushes for 74 yards and four catches for 55 yards, including a 46-yard touchdown reception that made it a one-score game in the fourth quarter, part of a 35-0 run for the Heels.

Williams, the big bruiser, carried the ball 13 times for 101 yards and gave North Carolina the cushion it needed with a 15-yard touchdown to extend the lead to 59-42 with 2:39 remaining. Williams currently leads the nation with 18 total touchdowns.

There’s no doubt Howell has an embarrassment of riches at his disposal, and he has made the most of it. After Saturday’s sensational performance, he’s up to 2,631 passing yards (328.9 yards per game) and 23 touchdowns, momentarily leading the nation in both categories. He’s clearly already established himself as the best passer in school history: He set the school record for passing touchdowns in a season, 38, as a true freshman last year. He’s already nearing the school’s all-time mark of 68 (Darian Durant, 2001-2004).

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