I still don’t know how Carolina won that game. But, in the end, the win counts.
There are a lot of people you could go with here for the Player of the Game, and the vast majority of them are likely going to go with Drake Maye here. We’ll get to him in a second, and he’s a worthy choice, but it’s time we start to focus in on the guys who have been on the receiving end of his passes. Carolina doesn’t win this game without two of them: Antoine Green, and our Player of the Game, Josh Downs.
Downs led the team in catches, nine in total for 126 yards. Maybe he didn’t get any touchdowns, but it’s only because he got Carolina so close to the goal line on so many instances that someone else essentially vacuumed his score.
The staying seated on the defender while chatting with someone was a great touch.
And while, at this moment, it’s difficult to find the actual highlight, who did Maye find on the fourth and five at the Duke 20? That’s right, Josh Downs. Easy catch and got another ten or so after, and set up Carolina first and goal from the five. Maye was able to punch it in two plays later on an amazing catch by Antoine Green.
Time and time again when the Tar Heels needed a big play, they were looking to Downs. How he’s only 5’10” and makes the plays he does is something next to a miracle, and fans better enjoy him this season cause he’s going to be playing on Sundays next year.
Speaking of playing on Sundays...
Antoine Green easily has a case for Player of the Game as well. He was the bookend for Maye in this one — he caught the first pass by Drake and the last one which was the game-winning score. That Green managed to barely stay in bounds and not force the ineligible receiver flag speaks to his skill, and his return to the lineup since Notre Dame has just taken this offense to another level.
Finally, we have Drake Maye. What can you say about him that hasn’t already been said? Saturday saw his highest yards passed for this season with 380, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and he was the leading rusher with 70 yards. The ACC Network posted a stat after the game stating that the last ACC Quarterback to pass for 300 yards and rush for 50 three games in a row was Lamar Jackson. In just seven games, Maye has established himself as one of the best quarterbacks in the country and, no doubt, NFL scouts will be salivating over him next season.
If only he didn’t fumble the ball.
It’s really hard to blame him for the two fumbles, to be fair. The first one really was on Caleb Hood for getting so close to Maye that he lost control of the ball, and the second one was...debatable. Credit the Duke defender for wrapping up Maye and having him lose control of the ball but, man, a great case of ACC Refs deciding that they wanted to create drama by overturning a call on the field with something that wasn’t clear and obvious. Maye got the last laugh, and his fourth quarter go-ahead drive is going to go into the annals of rivalry history.
That said, the spot light was on the receivers as Downs kept working hard to get himself in a position to make a play for his quarterback, and that edge is enough to make him our Player of the Game.