Devon Achane rushed for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns, including a 76-yarder as No. 5 Texas A&M took down No. 13 North Carolina, 41-27, Saturday night in the Orange Bowl.
“North Carolina had one heck of a team,” Texas A&M head coach Jimbo Fisher said after the game. “That was one of the great Orange Bowls. … But I also say, there’s a heck of a football team standing in front of me.”
Kellen Mond passed for 232 yards and ran for a score for the Aggies (9-1), who were in the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1944 and were one spot away from making the College Football Playoff field. Fisher improved to 3-0 in Orange Bowls, winning two previous ones at Florida State.
Achane’s go-ahead score came on a play where he nearly tripped over one of his own blockers, broke a tackle and then got loose down the left sideline.
“Ain’t nobody catching me,” Achane said.
The Aggies got a fourth-down stop on the ensuing possession, and Achane — the game’s MVP — sealed the win on a 1-yard touchdown run with 1:34 left in the game.
Fitting, in a season when young players scored the overwhelming majority of Texas A&M’s touchdowns, a freshman had the final two scores.
“I just can’t wait for next season,” Achane said.
Sam Howell passed for 234 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to Josh Downs, for the Tar Heels (8-4). North Carolina was without leading rushers Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, leading receiver Dyami Brown and top tackler Chazz Surratt — all of whom opted out of the bowl game.
“We were so close,” Howell said. “We played a heck of a game out there tonight and just came up short. We were right there.”
Howell — a likely Heisman Trophy candidate in 2021 — did his best to change that stat. He tied the Tar Heels’ career TD passing record of 68 with his three scoring throws, all of which gave North Carolina leads.
“We lost 4,000 yards coming into the game and still had a chance against the No. 5 team to win,” UNC coach Mack Brown said.
“We’re able to compete with anybody,” Tar Heels linebacker Tomon Fox said.
But every time UNC went up, Texas A&M answered.
A 3-yard run by Spiller late in the half put the Aggies up 17-13, a chip-shot field goal by Seth Small tied the game at 20 with 14:02 remaining, and Mond had a 4-yard TD run with 10:11 left to tie the game at 27.
The rest was up to Achane, and Fisher is already thinking about history repeating itself in 2021. It’ll be his fourth season at Texas A&M; he won an Orange Bowl in his third season at Florida State and a national title in his fourth.
“I’m gonna tell you this: We ain’t done yet,” Fisher said.
North Carolina’s loss also meant that the ACC finished the bowl season at 0-6, tying Conference USA.