Rontavius Groves

Mack Brown North Carolina
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Mack Brown caps first season back at North Carolina with Military Bowl thumping of Temple

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It’s been a while, but Mack Brown and North Carolina are finally back in a bowl winner’s circle.

Jumping out to a 20-6 halftime led, UNC never allowed Temple (8-5) to get any closer in a 55-13 Military Bowl manhandling of the Owls.  The win caps Brown’s first season back at Chapel Hill, pushing the Tar Heels to 7-6 on the season.  Prior to Brown’s return, UNC had won a combined five games the previous two seasons.

For Brown, it was his first bowl win since 2012 in his second-to-last season at Texas.  For UNC, it was the football program’s first bowl win since the 2013 season.  It’s also the most postseason points they’ve ever scored, trumping the 42 put up in the 1998 Gator Bowl.

And, as has been the case most of the season, a big reason for this latest triumph was Sam Howell.

The true freshman quarterback completed 25 of his 34 passes for 294 yards and three touchdowns.  Howell now has 38 touchdown passes on the year, extending the true freshman record he had broken earlier in the season (Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, 30 in 2018).  The all-time freshman record, true or redshirt, is 40, set by Florida State’s Jameis Winston in 2013.

Howell, though, was greatly aided on two of his touchdown tosses by Dazz Newsome‘s acrobatics and athleticism.

In addition to his arm, Howell also used his legs to put up 53 yards on the ground.  And, as if all of that wasn’t enough, Howell caught the first touchdown pass of his collegiate career, a two-yarder from wide receiver Rontavius Groves, extending his school’s lead to 41-6 late in the third quarter.

It wasn’t just a one-man effort, though, as the defense also had a hand in the rout.  Not only did the Tar Heels hold the Owls to just 2.3 yards per carry, All-Name first-teamer Storm Duck returned an interception 20 yards for a third-quarter touchdown as well.

In his first season with the Owls, Rod Carey fell to 0-7 in bowl games as a head coach — 0-6 at Northern Illinois, 0-1 at Temple.  Carey has also won exactly eight games each of the last three seasons and four of the past five.

With UNC’s win, the ACC improves to 2-1 this bowl season.  Conversely, the AAC falls to 1-2.