ATLANTE—Drake May passed for two touchdowns, Omarion Hampton ran for a pair of scores and North Carolina escaped another thwarted bid from a Sun Belt Conference team on Saturday, rallying for a 35-28 win over Georgia State after squandering an 18-point lead.
The Tar Heels (3-0) were coming off a wild 63-61 victory at Appalachian State despite giving up a staggering 40 points in the fourth quarter.
The Atlantic Coast Conference school hit the road again to take on Georgia State (0-2), which hosted a Power 5 team in Atlanta for the first time in its program’s 13-year history.
The Panthers snatched 25 straight points to take a 28-21 lead late in the third quarter.
But Hampton broke a 58-yard touchdown run right in the middle of the field to tie the game before the end of the third.
He won it on a 2-yard dive with 10:42 remaining, ensuring the Tar Heels escape another close call and go 3-0 for the first time since 2011.
“I’m happy to have two wins on the road”, coach McBrown said. “Those two tough wins, which really helps us grow.”
Hampton finished with 110 rushing yards on 16 carries.
Darren Grainger threw three touchdown passes for Georgia State, which opened the season with a 35-14 loss at another Power 5 school in South Carolina.
“We can hold our heads up high,” Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott said. “I feel really good in our football team. We had chances to beat both of these teams. We weren’t outplayed.”
North Carolina appeared to be heading for a more comfortable win after the previous week’s madness, taking a 21-3 lead midway through the second quarter.
Maye threw a 55-yard touchdown pass to Kamari Morales and a 28 yard Kobe Paysour.
But Grainger led a comeback in Georgia State. He threw a 6-yard TD pass to Kris Byrd, a 49-yard TD pass to Robert Lewis and another to Lewis covering 29 yards to cap a 10-play, 98-yard drive that put the Panthers up 28-21 at the end of the third. quarterback – their first lead of the game.
But North Carolina’s offense eventually resumed, sparked by Hampton’s long run.
“I just read the hole,” Hampton said. “When it opened I knew I had to take it.”
MACK THE PLAYER
Brown went twice for fourth and ran his side of the 50 in the first half.
The Tar Heels only made one, but it worked out well.
The fourth and first at UNC 45, Hampton gained a yard to keep the drive going. Three plays later, Maye connected with Morales for the touchdown.
Brown’s second bet didn’t pay off. Up 21-10 with less than 2 minutes left in halftime, the attack remained on the pitch in fourth and second at their own 39.
Maye was fired, giving Georgia State a shot on a 44-yard field goal just before halftime. The Tar Heels blocked the attempt, preserving their 11-point lead.
“We got seven points on one, they got none on the other, so what a great call from me,” Brown joked. “We have enough good players, we should be able to get fourth and second. And we didn’t.”
North Carolina: Another sloppy performance that doesn’t bode well for the Tar Heels in the long run. Three turnovers gave the Panthers a chance, and the defense still has a lot of work to do after giving up 419 yards. But Maye, despite his first interception of the season, put on another stellar performance as he completed 19 of 24 for 284 yards. And, unlike the previous week, the defense held the Panthers scoreless in the final period. “Today the defense won the game for us,” Brown said.
State of Georgia: The Panthers put up an impressive effort, but their attempt to beat a Power 5 team for only the second time in school history failed. They fell to 1-14 against the biggest programs in the country.
North Carolina: After a week off, the Tar Heels host No. 8 Notre Dame on Sept. 24 in their final non-conference game before moving into the ACC portion of their schedule.
State of Georgia: Host Charlotte in the second of three straight games at Center Parc Stadium, formerly known as Turner Field.