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Devontez Walker scores 3 TDs as No. 12 North Carolina cruises past No. 25 Miami

Saturday night was Walker's second game at UNC after he was ruled eligible by the NCAA

North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker (9) hauls in a touchdown pass against Miami cornerback Te'Cory Couch (0) during the first half an NCAA college football game Saturday, Oct. 14, 2023, in Chapel Hill, N.C. (AP Photo/Chris Seward)
North Carolina wide receiver Devontez Walker caught the first three TD passes of his North Carolina career Saturday night. (AP Photo/Chris Seward) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Wide receiver Devontez Walker caught three touchdowns Saturday in his second game as a Tar Heel in No. 12 North Carolina’s 41-31 win over No. 25 Miami.

The former Kent State receiver finished with six catches for 132 yards as he was the go-to threat that UNC envisioned when he transferred over the offseason. But Walker missed the first four games of the season as the NCAA had initially ruled him ineligible because North Carolina was his third school.

After an ugly and public back-and-forth between North Carolina and the NCAA, Walker was ruled eligible before UNC’s Week 6 win over Syracuse. And it was clear Saturday night that he adds a dimension to North Carolina’s offense that makes it a serious contender in the ACC.

Walker’s first TD came in the first quarter on an 18-yard catch. His next two TDs came in the third quarter as North Carolina turned a 17-14 Miami halftime lead into an easy win.

Walker’s three TD catches already tie him with Kobe Paysour for the team lead and his presence means North Carolina has four good wide receivers that opposing defenses have to cover. That’s a tough ask, even when you don’t consider that the Tar Heels have a potential top-five NFL Draft pick in Drake Maye at QB.

The win marks the first time since 1914 that North Carolina has scored at least 30 points in each of its first six games of the season and the first time since 1997 that North Carolina has started a season 6-0. The Tar Heels have a serious chance to be 9-0 before Duke visits on Nov. 11. UNC will be heavily favored in its next three games against Virginia, Georgia Tech and Campbell before finishing the season against Duke, Clemson and NC State.

Those games at the end of the season mean Tar Heel fans shouldn’t get too worked up about UNC’s place in the initial College Football Playoff rankings on Oct. 31 if UNC is 8-0. Miami was the first ranked opponent UNC has played all season and the Hurricanes will receive few, if any, votes Sunday.

Miami has lost two in a row

There was no rebound for the Hurricanes (4-2, 0-2) after their inexplicable loss to the Yellow Jackets in Week 6 after the team ran the ball instead of kneeling the clock out. QB Tyler Van Dyke stood tough and made some great throws in the first half, but the Hurricanes had a brutal start to the second half.

Miami started the second half with drives that ended in a fumble, an interception, a punt and a turnover on downs before finally scoring to cut North Carolina’s lead to 14 midway through the second half.

The back-to-back losses for the Hurricanes drop them to 0-2 in ACC play with a home game versus Clemson looming next week. While Miami can still bounce back and finish in the top half of the ACC, this isn’t a Hurricanes team that looks capable of competing for the ACC title.