Sam Howell capped off an incredible freshman season with North Carolina football with a blowout win in the Military Bowl over Temple.
As the Gatorade National Player of the Year, Sam Howell had every major college football program knocking on his door.
Howell was committed to Florida State but he decided to turn in his Seminole gear for North Carolina swag, signing with Mack Brown and the Tar Heels. The Monroe, N.C., native decided to stay home and play for a legendary coach and try to revive a program that had hit rock bottom under Larry Fedora and he knew that he’d likely get a shot to start right away.
And he did.
Howell took the reins from the beginning of the season and led the Tar Heels to big wins over South Carolina and Miami, shocking the college football world.
The Tar Heels would lose six of the next eight games to fall to 4-6 but won its final two contests and then dismantled a good Group of Five team in Temple, 55-13. How did they do it? They let Sam Howell be Sam Howell.
Not only did the staff let him air it out, but they also gave him the freedom to tuck and run when he needed to and set up a trick play to get him a receiving touchdown in the second half.
To end the game, Howell had 294 passing yards, 53 rushing yards and a receiving touchdown, giving him four total on the day.
On the season, he has over 3,500 yards and 38 touchdown passes with only seven interceptions. Did I mention he’s only a true freshman?
North Carolina isn’t going to win the ACC next season, unless Clemson completely falls apart, but the Tar Heels are a program on the rise with Brown recruiting better and Howell entering his second full season as the starter.
Quietly he became the second-best quarterback in the conference on the season which no one expected when the year began. He could be in the Heisman conversation next season and if he improves at all, he’ll be approaching 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns through the air which is nothing short of remarkable.
This was the quietest elite season from a freshman quarterback in a long time and Chapel Hill should be singing Howell’s praises for years after he turned a dormant program around as a first-year player.