Wake Forest's dreams of reaching the College Football Playoff turned into a nightmare after Saturday's 58-55 upset loss to unranked North Carolina.
The Demon Deacons entered this game undefeated (8-0) and ranked ninth in the first playoff rankings released this week. They responded by allowing 546 yards, including 330 on the ground, to suffer their first loss of the season.
North Carolina running back Ty Chandler ran for a career-high 213 yards and four touchdowns in the win. His 50-yard score with 1:12 remaining sealed the win for his team.
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Ty Chandler puts the ‼️ on a HUGE 2nd half comeback from UNC! 🐏<a href="https://twitter.com/UNCFootball?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@UNCFootball</a> | <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/ACCFootball?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#ACCFootball</a> <br><br>📺: <a href="https://t.co/kmVUnPe8sA">https://t.co/kmVUnPe8sA</a> <a href="https://t.co/4TBvhbXqaz">pic.twitter.com/4TBvhbXqaz</a>
In addition to severely damaging their playoff hopes, the Demon Deacons have left the door wide open in the ACC Atlantic division. NC State could end the day with a 4-1 conference record if it beats Florida State.
Wake Forest is currently 5-1 in ACC play and will host NC State next week.
This is a particularly crushing loss because Wake looked to be in control midway through the third quarter. A.T. Perry caught a 66-yard touchdown pass from Sam Hartman to help put the Demon Deacons up 45-27 with 7:38 remaining in the period.
North Carolina put up 31 points over the final 22:38 in regulation to get its biggest win of the season.
The 8-0 start was the best in Wake Forest history. The eight wins tied the most in a single season under head coach Dave Clawson, who was hired in 2014.
Clawson said coming into this game that he wanted his team to get more credit and attention on the national stage.
"We're a good football team, why are people surprised?" Clawson told ESPN's David M. Hale. "This hasn't come out of nowhere. We've been good. We've been building. It doesn't upset me, but I just think our players deserve more credit."
The offense did put up 615 total yards and dropped 55 points in a game. Hartman wasn't razor-sharp with his accuracy, completing just 25 of 51 attempts for 398 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions.
But the defense continues to be an issue for the Demon Deacons. They have allowed at least 34 points in four of their past five games.
Wake Forest is still a good team that is capable of doing big things, but its path looks a lot more difficult now.
On the other side, this was a huge win for a North Carolina team that's been a disappointment so far this season. The Tar Heels were ranked No. 10 in the Associated Press preseason Top 25 after going 8-4 in 2020.
Quarterback Sam Howell, who was a preseason Heisman favorite and possible No. 1 pick in the 2022 NFL draft, had a terrible start to 2021. He went 17-of-32 for 208 yards with one touchdown and three interceptions in a 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech on Sept. 3.
Howell and the Tar Heels have been inconsistent thus far, resulting in their 4-4 record coming into Saturday. They still have a chance to win the Coastal division. Their 4-3 mark in ACC play ranks third in the division, behind Pittsburgh (4-1) and Virginia (4-2).
North Carolina already has a head-to-head win over Virginia. It will travel to Heinz Field for a showdown with Pitt on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. ET.