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COLLEGE FOOTBALL

Duke's Mayo Bowl: West Virginia 30, North Carolina 10

College Football

By STEVE REEDAP
Associated Press

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - Garrett Greene threw for 204 yards and a touchdown, Beanie Bishop Jr. returned a punt 78 yards for a score and West Virginia closed a season in which it exceeded expectations with a 30-10 victory over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl.

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.

Selected 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 a 91 yards.

North Carolina (8-5) 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.

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

And the Mountaineers fans watched their team get off to a great start as Greene hooked up with a Traylon Ray for the 75-yard touchdown strike on the first play from scrimmage.

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, make 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 a 30-10 with eight minutes left on his third field goal of the game.

THE TAKEAWAY

West Virginia: The Mountaineers didn't have their best running game, but Greene made the most of what he was given and used his arm to beat the Tar Heels. His return next season for his senior season should bode well as the Mountaineers look to build on a surprising season which likely saved coach Neal Brown's job.

North Carolina: 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 top wide receiver Tez Walker and tight ends Bryson Nesbit and John Copenhaver.

​December 27, 2023





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