No. 2 Notre Dame held No. 25 North Carolina’s high-powered offense without a second-half point and Kyren Williams scored two touchdowns in the Fighting Irish’s 31-17 victory Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.
Williams gained 124 yards on 23 carries, including a clinching scoring run from 1 yard out with 1:20 to play.
Notre Dame quarterback Ian Book completed 23 of 33 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 48 yards.
The result was a significant accomplishment for the Irish (9-0, 8-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), who earlier in the week were slotted at No. 2 in the first College Football Playoff rankings of the season. They have remaining games against Syracuse at home and a makeup game at Wake Forest, needing to win one of those to clinch a spot in the ACC championship game.
The Irish took their first lead on receiver Ben Skowronek’s 13-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, completing a 97-yard drive. They had a chance to stretch the lead later in the quarter, but Jonathan Doerer missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt.
Williams picked up 67 rushing yards on the final drive, which covered 89 yards.
North Carolina (6-3, 6-3) is 0-28 all-time against teams ranked in the top three nationally.
Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell was 17-for-27 for 211 yards and one touchdown. He also ran for a TD.
After Notre Dame punted to cap the game’s first possession, the teams combined to produce touchdowns on four consecutive possessions.
Howell threw 6 yards to Emery Simmons, who caught his first touchdown pass of the season. It was the seventh time in nine games that the Tar Heels scored a touchdown on their first possession of a game.
Notre Dame answered with Williams’ 2-yard touchdown run. Howell ran 1 yard for a TD, then Book passed 14 yards to Williams to make it 14-14 before the first quarter ended.
North Carolina’s last two possessions of the first half began inside its 5-yard line. On the second of those, the Tar Heels converted on third-and-18 and third-and-20, the latter pick-up coming courtesy of a targeting call and subsequent ejection of Notre Dame defensive back Kyle Hamilton.
North Carolina managed a 42-yard field goal from Grayson Atkins with 1:10 remaining in the half. The Irish pulled even on Doerer’s 32-yarder on the last snap of the half.