CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP) Devontez “Tez” Walker kept getting a step on defenders, snagging catches and breaking loose to the end zone for No. 12 North Carolina.

“His presence is a game changer,” coach Mack Brown said.

Walker caught three of Drake Maye's four touchdown passes and UNC took over after halftime to beat No. 25 Miami 41-31 on Saturday night, extending what has been the program's best start in 26 years.

Walker had 132 yards on his six catches in his first start for the Tar Heels (6-0, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), with that start having been delayed after a long eligibility fight with the NCAA.

The Kent State transfer didn’t play the first four games when the NCAA wouldn’t grant a waiver for immediate eligibility, citing tougher restrictions on athletes regarded as two-time transfers, before unexpectedly reversing itself last week.

Walker had six catches for 43 yards in a last-minute rush of preparation to get on the field last week against Syracuse. This time, he had a full week of practice to be fully integrated into the offense, then showed his ability as a game-breaking downfield threat for the Tar Heels’ star passer.

“I was able to have a full week to prepare ... (getting) some of that chemistry back we had in the spring,” Walker said.

Omarion Hampton scored two short TDs - one on the ground, one through the air - to go with 197 yards rushing for the Tar Heels, including a 60-yarder with UNC working on the clock in the fourth quarter with a two-touchdown lead. Maye threw for 273 yards and overcame early pressure from Miami's defensive front.

The Tar Heels trailed 17-14 at the break after a penalty-filled half, but ran off 24 straight points in the third quarter to push ahead for good.

Tyler Van Dyke threw for 391 yards and four touchdowns for the Hurricanes (4-2, 0-2), with two of those scores going to Xavier Restrepo. Jacolby George and Brashard Smith also had TD catches for Miami.

But a week after a crushing last-second loss to Georgia Tech, Miami struggled badly in the third quarter, both in moving the ball and slowing down the Tar Heels. Miami managed just 32 yards in the third, which included Miami losing a fumble on a low snap and Van Dyke throwing an interception.

“That tilted the momentum,” Miami coach Mario Cristobal said. “We found ourselves trying to catch that momentum back, and never did.”

Walker got loose on a deep route over the middle for an 18-yard touchdown grab in the first quarter. He struck again on Maye’s perfectly placed deep ball - flying over the outstretched arm of Jaden Davis - that hit Walker in stride for a 56-yard TD in the opening minutes of the third.

Walker’s third came when Maye hit him for a 34-yarder that had him cutting through the middle of the Miami defense and breaking into the clear for a 28-17 lead.

“We were 4-0 without him,” Brown said. “Obviously we have a chance to be much better with him.”


Miami: The Georgia Tech loss was a disaster, from a late playcalling mistake that Cristobal took the blame for to giving up the last-second touchdown. The Hurricanes talked this week about showing the ability to bounce back, and they did that through a first half that had them making UNC's high-powered offense working for yards even while losing a fumble at the goal line with a chance for an early touchdown. But the game got away in the third quarter, and they spent the fourth quarter largely chasing their own improbable comeback.

“We've got to be better, honestly,” Van Dyke said, adding: “Too many critical situations, turnovers, making mistakes - we've got to fix all that stuff.”

UNC: The Tar Heels are off to their best start since winning the first eight games in 1997, which was the final year of Brown's first coaching tenure at UNC before leaving for Texas. Last week's blowout of Syracuse was a complete-game performance, while this one showed off the potential of an offense that has finally has Walker fully integrated to go with Hampton's ability to carry the load on the ground.

“It's nice to have him out there,” Maye said with a grin.


UNC made its case for top-10 consideration in Sunday's next AP Top 25 release, while Miami seems likely to fall out after barely staying in the poll this week.


The biggest concern in this one for Brown was easy: 14 penalties for 147 yards.

“We didn’t play well enough for us to start walking around with our chest stuck out," he said. “You can't have that many penalties.”


Miami: The Hurricanes host Clemson next Saturday.

UNC: The Tar Heels wrap a three-game league homestand by against Virginia next Saturday.


AP college football: and

Copyright 2024 STATS LLC and Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and Associated Press is strictly prohibited.