West Virginia upends UNC 30-10 to win Duke's Mayo Bowl

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Thursday, December 28, 2023
Tar Heels falls to West Virginia in Duke's Mayo Bowl
J.J. Jones' spectacular touchdown catch was the highlight for UNC on an otherwise dismal night in Charlotte.

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- A shorthanded North Carolina found itself quickly down 7-0 after just one offensive play -- and it didn't get much better from there.

West Virginia never looked back in claiming the Duke's Mayo Bowl trophy with a 30-10 win Wednesday against the Tar Heels.

Traylon Ray had a 75-yard touchdown reception on the first play from scrimmage for the Mountaineers, who won their final three games to finish 9-4 after being picked to finish last in the Big 12.

West Virginia never trailed.

North Carolina played without star quarterback Drake Maye and top wide receiver Tez Walker, who opted out of the game to begin preparing for the NFL draft.

Conner Harrell made his first college start for North Carolina, completing 18 of 27 passes for 199 yards, with a 16-yard touchdown to J.J. Jones. Harrell ran for 37 yards but was sacked seven times and threw two interceptions - one in the end zone.

The Tar Heels finished the season 8-5, losing their final three games.

Garrett Greene threw for 204 yards and a touchdown for the Mountaineers. Selected as the game MVP, Greene completed 11 of 22 passes.

Jahiem White ran for 50 yards and a touchdown for West Virginia, and Ray finished with three catches for 91 yards.

Beanie Bishop Jr. returned a punt 78 yards for a score as the Mountaineers found various ways to get points on the board.

Despite the game being played about a two-hour drive from North Carolina's Chapel Hill campus, the crowd was predominantly for West Virginia.

West Virginia, which entered the game fourth in the nation rushing at 234.4 yards per game, couldn't muster much on offense after that. But their special teams provided a huge lift as Bishop fielded a punt, made a tackler miss, and crossed the field en route to a 78-yard return to help build a 17-10 halftime lead.

The Mountaineers finally got their running game going in the fourth quarter when Greene broke the pocket for a 48-yard scamper and White scored on an 11-yard burst to extend the lead to 27-10. Michael Hayes made it 30-10 with eight minutes left on his third field goal of the game.

The Tar Heels seemed in the game midway through but failed to score in the second half. It was the first time this season UNC did not score in a half.

Harrell showed promise, displaying good quickness and an ability to escape the pocket. He had two interceptions, but it didn't help that the Tar Heels were without Walker and tight ends Bryson Nesbit and John Copenhaver.

North Carolina running back British Brooks is tackled by a host of Mountaineers.
Chris Carlson

Omarion Hampton, who finished with 62 yards on 19 carries, passed Elijah Hood and finished the season with the second-most single-season rushing yards in Tar Heels history.

He finished with 1,504 yards, behind only the 1,720 yards compiled by Don McCauley in 1970.

The trip to Charlotte to end the year at the Duke's Mayo Bowl has been unkind to North Carolina-based teams in recent years.

Last year, NC State fell to Maryland 16-12 and the Tar Heels lost in 2021 to South Carolina 38-21. In 2020, Wake Forest was beaten by Wisconsin 42-28. The Demon Deacons were the last in-state team to win the game, beating Texas A&M 55-52 in 2017.

The Associated Press contributed.