North Carolina football got a bonce back performance on Saturday, beating Virginia Tech 41-10. When the final margin reaches that many points, it means you got good performances all over the field. However, the best probably came from the guy who’s drawn a lot of the praise surrounding the Tar Heels this season.
Coming into this game, Drake Maye was already towards the top of a lot of national leaderboards of quarterback state. Saturday’s game only consolidated those placements even more.
On the day, Maye was 26-36, throwing for 363 yards and three touchdowns. Meanwhile on the ground, he also finished as UNC’s leading rusher, picking up 73 yards at over five yards per attempt, and adding another two rushing touchdowns. It was the fourth time in five games this season where Maye’s been part of five touchdowns. He also did all that after a bit of a slow start, as he was 0-3 on his first couple passing attempts of the game.
He was pretty good all game long, but some of his best work came right before halftime. After Tech scored a touchdown with 28 seconds left in the second quarter, Maye and the Tar Heels got the ball on the 25-yard line, and quickly got into field goal range. On the drive, they picked up 34 passing yards on two plays, with the Heels’ quarterback running for another 14. That set up Noah Burnette for a 44-yard field goal as the half expired. Virginia Tech’s touchdown before that made it 21-10, and the Hokies were set to get the ball to start the second half. UNC’s quick drive meant Teach went into the half down two touchdowns. The Heels’ defense came out and got a stop to start the third quarter, and Carolina never looked back from there. There are plenty of good sequences you could point at to show Maye’s good play, but that quick drive was the perfect example of how clinical Maye was on Saturday.
His day did feature a briefly scary moment, though. In the third quarter, a hurdle attempt went a bit wrong, leading to Maye heading into the injury tent and Jacolby Criswell briefly taking over at QB. Maye ended up returning after that and seemed to be fine.
One of the other big performers on offense was Maye’s main target on the day: Josh Downs. The star receiver went for 120 yards on eight catches. While he didn’t end up grabbing any touchdowns, a couple of his catches came at critical junctures on drives. Two of his catches on third downs and helped the Heels picks up a first. Another came on fourth down, keeping alive a drive that helped Carolina go up 14-3 early in the second quarter. The margin never got below double digits again after that. Maye’s other big target on the day was Bryson Nesbit, who had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown.
Virginia Tech’s offense this year has been mediocre enough previously that we shouldn’t go overboard with praise for the defense, but they did play well, holding the Hokies to under four yards per play. Leading the way on that end was Cedric Gray, who finished with a team high eight tackles, and also intercepted Tech QB Grant Wells, a turnover which quickly turned into a touchdown that put Carolina up 18.
In general, it was a good day for UNC, and more evidence that the Heels have a star under center.