Chandler, Tar Heels rally past No. 10 Demon Deacons, 58-55

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – For the second straight year, Wake Forest couldn’t protect a big second-half lead at North Carolina. This time, though, it likely cost the 10th-ranked Demon Deacons any chance of playing their way deeper into the College Football Playoff race.

Ty Chandler ran for career highs of 213 yards and four touchdowns and North Carolina overcame an 18-point deficit to beat Wake Forest 58-55 on Saturday, handing the Demon Deacons their first loss in a nonconference matchup of Atlantic Coast Conference teams.

It ended with the unusual sight of Tar Heels fans storming the field to celebrate a win against their instate foe, though not one that will count toward the league standings.

“I’ve told them: every Saturday you build memories,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said. “That’s what you do. And this is a game that they will remember for the rest of their lives. And I’m really, really proud that my name is associated with them.”

Chandler’s big day included a 50-yard breakaway run with 1:12 left to make it 58-48. That was the final blow for the Tar Heels (5-4) in rallying from a huge third-quarter deficit to beat the Demon Deacons (8-1, No. 9 CFP) for the second straight year, following a 21-point comeback last year by erasing a 45-27 deficit with 7:38 left in the third.

“It just felt like a rerun of last year’s game,” Wake Forest coach Dave Clawson said.

“Pretty similar,” quarterback Sam Hartman echoed.

The Tar Heels felt it too, even down big.

“What we were saying on the sidelines is: we’ve been here before,” UNC quarterback Sam Howell said.

The loss doesn’t impact the Demon Deacons’ pursuit of their first ACC title since 2006 since it was part of a home-and-home nonconference series announced in 2015 with the schools not meeting as often amid the expanded ACC’s scheduling model. But the goal Clawson mentioned after last week’s rout of Duke – being in the playoff discussion – is likely gone.

“We just, we weren’t sharp,” Clawson said. “You say that and we scored 50-something points. But we weren’t as sharp as we needed to be. We certainly played well on offense and scored a lot of points, but with as well as North Carolina played, we had to be a little bit better. And we weren’t.”

Hartman threw for 398 yards and five touchdowns and ran for 78 yards and two more scores for Wake Forest. A.T. Perry and Jaquarii Roberson each hauled in a pair of touchdown grabs to lead a 615-yard effort from the offense.

But that high-scoring unit, one of the best of the Bowl Subdivision, stalled at a critical time with three straight empty drives. And it came against a much-maligned defense that had struggled to show many tangible signs of improvement this season, a key piece of UNC’s struggles in going from ranked No. 10 in preseason to unranked before October.

Howell threw for 216 yards and a touchdown and ran for 104 and two more scores in a matchup of high-profile quarterbacks. And the Tar Heels scored on their last five full drives, four for touchdowns.

“We were just breathing life into each other and encouraging each other and keeping it going,” Chandler said, adding: “That’s what it came down to: just being able to respond. And we did a great job of that.”

THE TAKEAWAY

Wake Forest: The nightmarish repeat of last year’s game ended with a similar final score (59-53) and also featured injuries in the secondary that wore on the Demon Deacons as the game went on. That made it even tougher to slow the Tar Heels as their offense picked up momentum.

North Carolina: The stops were a huge development. There was Cam Kelly’s second interception of Hartman with 10:40 left to set up a touchdown. There was a batted-down pass from Ray Vohasek at the line on fourth down on the next drive, followed by another fourth-down incompletion after Grayson Atkins‘ go-ahead 25-yard field goal with 2:12 left. It all came with top linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel ejected for targeting at the end of the first quarter, too.

POLL IMPLICATIONS

The Demon Deacons are set to tumble, both in the next AP Top 25 and the next CFP rankings.

MILESTONES

Howell passed Marquise Williams (10,423) for UNC record for career total offense in this one. The 55 points marked the most allowed by UNC in any win, surpassing last year’s total of 53 against Wake Forest.

UP NEXT

Wake Forest: The Demon Deacons begin a closing stretch of three straight league games that will determine whether they win the Atlantic Division race, starting with next Saturday’s visit from North Carolina State.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels have a short week and visit Pittsburgh on Thursday in what will be another high-profile quarterback matchup with Kenny Pickett.

Minnesota football players’ discrimination lawsuit dismissed

Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
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MINNEAPOLIS — A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit filed by nine former University of Minnesota football players who were accused of sexual assault in 2016 in a case that roiled the school’s football program.

The lawsuit against the school claimed that the players faced emotional distress and financial damage after being falsely accused of being sex offenders. The players, who were identified in the lawsuit as John Does, sought unspecified damages for willful and malicious discrimination.

A woman alleged up to a dozen football players raped her or watched and cheered at an off-campus party in 2016. None of the players were ever charged.

The university found that 10 football players committed sexual misconduct. Five of them were expelled or suspended for violating student conduct codes, and the others were cleared on appeal.

In their lawsuit, the players alleged that the woman initiated the sexual encounters with players and an underage recruit.

U.S. District Court Judge Donovan Frank dismissed the lawsuit last week, saying the former players did not prove any of their claims, including allegations of bias by university investigators or pressure from Athletic Director Mark Coyle and former President Eric Kaler, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reported.

David Madgett, an attorney for the players, said Tuesday that they are considering an appeal but have to determine if it makes sense financially and in terms of letting the former players get on with their lives. He said it was disappointing that the outcome was determined by the judge’s version of events and not decided by a jury.

“It’s disappointing to see disputes decided in this way,” Madgett said. “That’s the way things are decided more and more these days. … It’s disappointing you don’t get your day in court.”

When the allegations became public in 2016, players threatened to boycott the team’s trip to the Holiday Bowl. But after a graphic report of the investigation was released, the players agreed to play in the game.

University of Minnesota spokesman Jake Ricker said the school appreciated the judge’s decision affirming the actions taken in the case. He said the university would continue its work focusing on sexual misconduct awareness, prevention and response.

Frank dismissed the lawsuit in 2019, but an appeals court reinstated part of it in 2021 and returned it to Frank.

The players, all of whom are Black, also initially claimed racial discrimination, but that claim was previously dismissed.

The only remaining claim alleged Title IX gender discrimination. The former players noted that they never faced criminal charges, but Frank’s ruling said that “is certainly not evidence of a judicial adjudication or that plaintiffs ‘were proven innocent.'”

The men also claimed that an investigator for the university’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Affirmative Action used “manipulative tactics” with them in interviews and that their accuser helped draft the report. The players also alleged that “prior failed investigations motivated” the the school to punish them.

Frank said all the claims were unsupported by the evidence and “no reasonable jury could find that the University disciplined plaintiffs on the basis of sex.”

Michigan State player who swung helmet gets probation

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports
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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — A Michigan State football player who swung his helmet at a Michigan player in a stadium tunnel expressed regret Tuesday and said he’s “just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue” on the field.

Khary Crump, a defensive back, was sentenced to probation. He was one of seven Michigan State players charged in a skirmish that followed a loss at Michigan Stadium on Oct. 29.

Crump was the only Spartan facing a felony, but that charge was dismissed in an agreement to plead guilty to misdemeanors. His record will be scrubbed clean if he stays out of trouble while on probation.

“Unfortunately, an exchange of words (took place), I felt attacked and unfortunately I did what I did,” Crump said of the tunnel altercation involving Michigan’s Gemon Green. “I’m not proud of that. I’m looking forward to moving forward.”

Crump was suspended by coach Mel Tucker. In addition, the Big Ten has suspended him for eight games in 2023.

“I had difficulties trying to stomach my actions … on that fateful day, but it happened. I can’t take it back,” Crump told MLive.com after the court hearing. “Honestly, I’m just looking forward to wuppin’ some maize and blue in the future — on the football field, of course.”

At least four other players charged with misdemeanors Will Likely have their cases dismissed in exchange for community service and other conditions. The cases against two others are pending.