In the inaugural play of the game, West Virginia seized the lead and maintained dominance, securing a 30-10 triumph over North Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl held at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Mountaineers initiated their first possession with a remarkable 75-yard touchdown pass from the game’s Most Valuable Player, Garrett Greene, to Traylon Ray. Subsequently, they thwarted a Tar Heel offense, predominantly composed of substitutes, restricting them to a lone touchdown and no points in the latter half.
Despite the absence of key players such as All-America center Zach Frazier and top rusher C.J. Donaldson Jr., West Virginia showcased Greene, their starting quarterback. In contrast, North Carolina faced the game without their primary quarterback, Drake Maye, and several other key contributors.
Greene demonstrated prowess by completing 12 of 23 pass attempts for 228 yards and contributing an additional 64 yards on the ground, culminating in a total offensive output of 392 yards for the Mountaineers.
The standout narrative of the evening unfolded through WVU’s defensive prowess, sacking North Carolina’s quarterback Conner Harrell seven times and achieving a shutout in the latter part of the game.
Omarion Hampton, UNC’s leading rusher, was limited to a net gain of 62 yards, resulting in the Tar Heels managing only 140 yards on the ground, inclusive of sack yards.
Harrell, despite completing 18 of 27 attempts for 199 yards, faced adversity with two interceptions and incessant pressure throughout the game.
Coach Neal Brown expressed, “This is a remarkable group; I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coaching them, and tonight, we answered the call.”
The victory held special significance for Brown, given that his team was initially predicted to finish last in the Big 12 but exceeded expectations with nine victories, marking the first time since 2016 that the Mountaineers concluded a season with double-digit wins.
Highlighting the exceptional performance, Brown acknowledged, “Our defense and special teams were outstanding, and Mountaineer Nation truly made an incredible showing.”
Indeed, the crowd of 42,925, predominantly clad in Old Gold and Blue, passionately supported the team.
Amidst Ray’s touchdown and Michael Hayes‘ field goal concluding the first half, promising Mountaineer drives faced setbacks, including three holding penalties, an illegal man downfield penalty, and D.J. Oliver’s fumble.
Nevertheless, Beanie Bishop Jr. provided a brief 11-point lead with a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown, marking WVU’s first punt return for a score in a bowl since 2017.
The first half witnessed North Carolina’s sole touchdown drive covering 76 yards in five plays, benefiting from Malachi Ruffin’s pass interference penalty on Jon Jones Jr.
WVU’s response was swift, with Greene’s pass to Clement for 32 yards setting the stage for Hayes’ field goal, concluding the half.
The second half witnessed Harrell’s interceptions and WVU capitalizing on penalties, extending their lead with another field goal by Hayes.
As the game progressed, West Virginia’s dominance continued, with Greene’s 48-yard run and a subsequent pass to Taylor, culminating in White’s touchdown run and Hayes’ successful conversion.
North Carolina’s unsuccessful attempts on their own 26-yard line resulted in Hayes adding three more points, concluding the scoring.
This victory marked West Virginia’s 17th in 40 all-time bowl appearances, securing a 9-4 record for the regular season and instilling momentum for the offseason with key offensive players returning in 2024.
In a post-game tradition, the West Virginia crowd remained in the stadium to witness Coach Neal Brown partake in the ceremonial dumping of mayonnaise on his head.
Looking ahead, the Mountaineers encourage fans to maintain the momentum by securing season ticket deposits for the upcoming 2024 season, available at WVUGAME.com for just $99 for new season ticket orders. Renewal information for existing season ticket holders will be provided in the coming months.