His footwork carrying the ball drew most of the attention Saturday night.
Howell scored on two rushes to go with three touchdown throws as the Tar Heels beat Georgia State 59-17, shaking off the disappointment of an opening-game defeat.
"I definitely think I have a lot of value in the running game," said Howell, a junior who's the school record-holder for touchdown passes.
The most notable run was a career-long 62-yarder for a TD in the waning seconds of the third quarter.
"I was real tired," Howell said. "When I was running, I was thinking, 'Someone hasn't caught me from behind yet?' "
Everyone seemed to notice. Coach Mack Brown said the staff needed to have oxygen ready for Howell on the sideline "because he had never run so far."
Georgia State coach Shawn Elliott wasn't as amused.
"Some of his runs there, he didn't do anything spectacular," Elliott said. "We're just not containing."
Howell played a role in five of the Tar Heels' first seven touchdowns. He completed 21 of 29 passes for 352 yards without an interception. He was picked off three times in a 17-10 setback at Virginia Tech in the team's opener a week earlier.
"(It can be) a reality check," Howell said. "Go back to work and that's what we did. ... We were able to come out there in the second half and play Carolina football."
Howell was the game's leading rusher with 104 yards on 11 carries. His 22-yard scramble produced the game's first points.
Georgia State (0-2) was held to 90 passing yards. Quarterback Cornelious Brown IV was12 for 26 for 68 yards.
North Carolina's lead was 24-10 midway through the third quarter, before the Tar Heels (1-1) used a 28-point burst in about 9 minutes.
"This one got out of hand late," Mack Brown said. "But it was still a game at halftime. We had to work."
Afterward, it seemed fitting to Elliott when a technical glitch interrupted the opening seconds of his virtual postgame news conference.
"(The ipad) operates much like our team -- at times it's capable and at times it's not," Elliott said.
Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler scored his first TD for North Carolina on a 2-yard run in the third quarter.
Howell's touchdown throws in the first half came on a 57-yard connection with Antoine Green, and a 30-yard play to Emery Simmons. He threw for 5 yards to Josh Downs in the fourth quarter.
Georgia State's scoring drive in the second quarter lasted 17 plays and 7 minutes, covering 75 yards capped by Brown's 4-yard run.
Howell became the second North Carolina player to collect 300 or more passing yards and 100-plus rushing yards in the same game. The other was Marquise Williams in a 2014 loss at Notre Dame.
"He's my favorite Tar Heel ever," Howell said.
AIR IT OUT
The Tar Heels need to develop receiving targets other than Downs. So with Green racking up 117 receiving yards on three catches, he showed the ability to be a deep threat.
"I think it's something we can build off," Green said of big gains in the passing attack. "It definitely boosted my confidence."
Georgia State: Breakdowns on defense came too frequently for the Panthers, who've allowed a total of 102 points in two games. Five of North Carolina's touchdowns came on plays of 20 or more yards.
"It's hard to put a finger on it right after the game," Elliott said of the problems. "It's a tough pill to swallow right now."
North Carolina: The Tar Heels were more productive than in their opener, but concerns regarding the offensive line surfaced again. They had only 33 first-half rushing yards, in part because of a pair of sacks allowed.
The Tar Heels should remain in the Top 25, but it took time to turn this into a blowout.
Georgia State: At home vs. Charlotte on Saturday.
North Carolina: At home vs. Virginia on Saturday.
UNC cheerleader struggles to finish push-ups after 59th point
A North Carolina cheerleader can't keep up with the team's high-scoring offense, failing to complete his push-ups after the Tar Heels' eighth touchdown.