Despite being down several star players, North Carolina football found a way to compete in their first ever New Year’s Six bowl game.
The North Carolina Tar Heels were shorthanded in the 2021 Orange Bowl against the fifth-ranked Texas A&M Aggies on Saturday night, but that did not seem to make a big difference as the Tar Heels competed with A&M for the whole game, but fell just short in the end.
Quarterback Sam Howell was fantastic and made big time throws down the field to a talented receiving corps and the North Carolina defense held Aggie running back Isaiah Spiller to under 100 yards for the game.
The offense took a little bit to get going, but Howell eventually found his rhythm and started making plays down field. After Howell threw an interception on their first possession, North Carolina settled for field goals and found themselves down 10-6 early. Howell found receiver Dazz Newsome on the next possession and the Tar Heels found their first lead of the game late in the second half.
A&M would proceed to chew the rest of the clock and get a touchdown before the half to go back up 17-13 at the break and then Howell found his groove late in the third and that is when he found Josh Downs for the first of two touchdown catches for the receiver. Downs stepping up was huge due to the other big time wideout, Dyami Brown opting out.
After an A&M field goal to tie the game, It only took North Carolina one play before they found the endzone agains courtesy of a 75-yard touchdown pass to Downs. Texas A&M got a big touchdown run to go up 34-27 before the North Carolina offense stalled out on their own side of the field and the Aggies were able to put the game away from there. It was disappointing to lose the game, but the future of this program is very bright in Chapel Hill.
Here are the three takeaways for North Carolina from the 2021 Orange Bowl.