CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina has proven it has the ability to rally from big deficits in the fourth quarter through three games of the season, and while the Tar Heels were disappointed they didn't get a final shot last week against Wake Forest, nonetheless they host Appalachian State on Saturday with momentum. North Carolina used fourth-quarter comebacks to win its first two games of the season and came back from 21-3 down in the final quarter last week before running out of time.
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, RSN. LINE: North Carolina, -3
Freshman quarterback Sam Howell fired two touchdowns in the fourth quarter – giving him five in the final 15 minutes through three games – but the Tar Heels could not get out of bounds in time to allow for one more play from midfield. "I didn't play very well in the first half," Howell told reporters after completing 17-of-28 passes for 182 yards and the two late scores to sophomore receiver Dyami Brown and junior running back Michael Carter. "We just fought as hard as we could in the second half and ended up running out of time." Appalachian State looks like one of the top contenders in the Sun Belt and received 12 votes in the national coaches poll this week, after scoring a combined 98 points in home victories over East Tennessee State and UNC-Charlotte to begin the season. Junior running back Darrynton Evans has rushed for 333 yards in two games as the Mountaineers have won eight in a row dating to last season.
ABOUT APPALACHIAN STATE (2-0)
Evans ranks third in FBS in rushing yards and had a standout performance Sept. 7 against Charlotte, rushing for 239 yards and three touchdowns while adding a 45-yard kickoff return for a score. Junior quarterback Zac Thomas is 12-1 in his career as a starter and finished with 21 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing scores a season ago, and has six through two games (five passing, one rushing). Senior outside linebacker Akeem Davis-Gaither, an all-conference first team honoree, leads the Mountaineers with 16 tackles this season after posting a team-best 105 in 2018.
ABOUT NORTH CAROLINA (2-1)
Howell has passed for 701 yards and six touchdowns through three games, completing 63.2 percent of his passes, and Carter rushed for 96 yards on 13 carries and caught an 11-yard touchdown against Wake Forest. Brown is off to a great start, averaging 21.2 yards per receptions with three scores, and junior receiver Dazz Newsome has caught 13 passes and one touchdown. Sophomore defensive back Trey Morrison recorded a career-high 12 tackles against Wake Forest, while junior linebacker Tomon Fox is fourth in the ACC and tied for 11th nationally with 3.5 sacks.
1. North Carolina sophomore RB Javonte Williams led the Tar Heels in rushing in the first two games of the season and is ninth in the ACC in rushing yards per game (68.3).
2. The Tar Heels have averaged 23.3 points and 401.7 yards of total offense per game, while allowing 20 points and 398 yards per contest.
3. Appalachian State has converted 12-of-23 third-down attempts, while the Tar Heels are just 9-of-42.
PREDICTION: North Carolina 28, Appalachian State 23