SOUTH BEND, Indiana — Notre Dame made too many big plays, and North Carolina made too many mistakes.
The combination was too much for the Tar Heels in a 50-43 loss to the sixth-ranked Fighting Irish on Saturday night.
"We gave up too many big plays and we didn't make enough big plays," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. "But we had some guys that made some competitive catches out there tonight. We had some guys that ran hard."
It marked the third time in the last four games an opponent had scored 50 or more points against the Tar Heels. The 43 points is the third most for North Carolina in a loss and the most ever in a road loss.
Fedora pointed to a fumble by Elijah Hood on the North Carolina 17-yard-line recovered by Notre Dame safety Elijah Shumate that set up a six-yard touchdown run as especially damaging. It gave the Irish a 28-20 lead.
"There is a play here, just like in every game, you got three, four, five plays that are always the difference in the game. You never know which one they're going to be. You've got to play every one like it's going to be the most important play," he said.
It was the highest-scoring game in the 84-year-history of Notre Dame Stadium.
"We managed to find a way to battle back and get up on them and score 15 points late in the game and get a win," Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly said.
It marked the second straight game the Irish (6-0) rallied to win in the fourth quarter. Last week, they beat Stanford with a touchdown with 61 seconds left. The Irish are at No. 1 Florida State (6-0) next week.
North Carolina (2-4) lost its fourth straight and fell to 0-12 at Notre Dame Stadium.
"I just left a team whose guts are ripped out of them right now," Fedora said. "They came here believing they were going to win a football game, and they came up short."
Golson threw three touchdowns passes to overcome his three turnovers, giving him a total of nine turnovers in the past three games. He was 21-of-38 passing for 300 yards.
North Carolina's Marquise Williams threw two touchdown passes, ran for another score and caught a 23-yard TD pass from receiver Quinshad Davis late in the third quarter to give the Tar Heels a 36-35 lead.
But mistakes hurt the Tar Heels as they have all season. A roughing-the-center penalty on North Carolina's Norkeithus Otis kept alive a drive that led to a 9-yard TD pass from Golson to Tarean Folston early in the fourth quarter and the Irish added a two-point conversion.
Fedora said he was better off not commenting about the penalty, but said Otis told him he didn't hit the center too early.
But Kelly said the Notre Dame coaches alerted officials earlier that North Carolina was doing it.
North Carolina was driving when Williams' short pass was intercepted by cornerback Cole Luke at the 26. That set up Folston's 6-yard scoring run, his third touchdown.
Fedora called the interception unfortunate.
"That guy played his heart out," Fedora said. "He really gave everything he had out there."
Williams rushed for a career-high 132 yards and was 24-of-41 passing for 303 yards.
"We couldn't tackle him," Kelly said. "We had two or three ties where we couldn't get him down."
Fedora said Williams played as hard as he could.
"He ran hard, he threw the ball. He gave us a chance," Fedora said. "He gave his team a chance to win a football game tonight."
Fedora abandoned his practice of rotating quarterbacks. Mitch Trubisky, a redshirt freshman, had entered each game on the third offensive series, but didn't play against the Irish. Williams said that helped him get in a rhythm.
"I was going with the flow and the guys were behind me," he said.
Folston finished with 98 yards rushing for the Irish on 18 carries for Notre Dame. Will Fuller had seven catches for 133 yards and two touchdowns.
Freshman Elijah Hood, who originally committed to Notre Dame, had a season-high 17 carries, finishing with 27 yards. The Tar Heels finished with a season-high 510 yards of offense.
Williams called the loss frustrating.
"We're that close. We're striving in a positive way and the offense is going to be fine. Our defense did a heck of a job today and it's just certain things, little details we missed out on in this game that cost us the game," he said.
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