North Carolina QB career comes full circle against Gamecocks


CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (AP) – Sam Howell has come full circle.

The North Carolina junior quarterback began his college career leading the Tar Heels to a victory from behind over South Carolina in the 2019 season opener at Bank of America Stadium. Now, nearly 28 months later, the projected NFL first-round pick will look to close things off with a win over those same Gamecocks at the same stadium as the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in what is expected to be his last game before become pro.

“Somehow reliving that moment and having the same opportunity is going to be pretty fun,” said Howell, who grew up in Charlotte.

While the Tar Heels’ season overall has been a disappointment – they started the season 10th in the nation but finished 6-6 and outside the Top 25 – Howell managed to put up some good numbers despite the fact to play behind a porous offensive line.

He pitched for 2,851 yards and 23 touchdowns and ran for a career-high 824 yards and 11 other scores.

While many of the country’s top college players choose not to play boules, Howell said it had never been a consideration for him – even though outlets have cast him as one of the top 10 picks. .

“Anyone who knows me knows I was going to play,” Howell said.

South Carolina coach Shane Beamer said Howell presents a great challenge to his defense because of his versatility.

“He’s a great passer, but I hadn’t realized how great he was a runner,” Beamer said. “It’s amazing how many tackles he’s had this season.”

A few other things to watch for Thursday at Duke’s Mayo Bowl:

THE MAYO BATH

The Duke’s Mayo Bowl presents one of the most anticipated celebrations of the college season, with both coaches agreeing to take a mayonnaise bath – instead of the traditional Gatorade bath – if their team wins. Both coaches are thrilled, so to speak, to be a part of the event that would bring in $ 10,000 to their charity of choice.

“It’s not that I’m dying to have mayonnaise thrown at me, but if that means we won the football game, then I totally agree,” Beamer said with a laugh. “I’ve found that it won’t happen naturally in the field, and that it will be organized dumping – which makes you a little more nervous with the anticipation of knowing it is happening.”

COVID WATCH

With so many bowl games canceled due to COVID-19, both coaches have been a little nervous this week – not wanting to have to tell players this game has been called off.

Beamer said South Carolina had “a few” positive tests on Tuesday, but nothing that will stop the Gamecocks from playing.

North Carolina coach Mack Brown said the Tar Heels are in “excellent shape” when it comes to COVID-19 with “little to no” positive tests. He said his players would not need to be tested again before the game.

“It’s a disappointing deal,” Beamer said. “We had an elderly walk-in person who had to come home. And he feels good. No symptoms and just like that his college career ends.

THE SEASON OF NOLAND’S TALE BOOKS

Zeb Noland’s storybook season will have a final chapter.

Noland, who started the season as a graduate assistant coach to South Carolina coach Shane Beamer, will return to the starting quarterback after Jason Brown enters the transfer portal.

Beamer turned to Noland, who had only one year of eligibility left after his playing career with Iowa State, when injuries decimated the team’s quarterback position. Noland helped the Gamecocks win over eastern Illinois and East Carolina and threw a winning touchdown pass with 37 seconds remaining to beat Vanderbilt.

“He’s going to be a great coach going forward,” Beamer said of Noland.

REFURBISHMENT OF SHELVES

After losing running backs Javonte Williams and Michael Carter to the NFL last season, the North Carolina running game was expected to take a huge hit.

But after a slow start to the season, Ty Chandler came back strong and ran for 1,063 yards. With Howell, North Carolina finished first in the conference for the ground race. They will face a defense from South Carolina which allowed at least 190 rushing yards in four of its last five games.

HOW TO PROTECT

North Carolina have struggled to protect Howell this season, allowing 45 sacks.

South Carolina, however, does not have a dominant pass rush and will be without its top passer, defensive end Kingsley Enagbare, who has chosen not to play to prepare for the NFL Draft. Enagbare finished the regular season with a team-best with 4 1/2 sacks and seven tackles for a loss.

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