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UNC vs. Pitt: Player of the Game

Spoiled for choice, quarterback sensation Drake Maye wins out in the end

NCAA Football: Pittsburgh at North Carolina Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Carolina had to wade through some muck to get their ultimately emphatic 42-24 win over Pitt. There were periods where the Player of the Game momentum switched hands and could have gone in several different directions.

In the first half, Antoine Green was a beast, keeping the offense moving when the run game was all but abandoned after Caleb Hood went down with a shoulder injury and Omarion Hampton fumbled again (recovered by an alert Corey Gaynor). Green had a spectacular one-handed touchdown grab to put UNC on the board...

... and finished the half with six catches (on seven targets) for 109 yards. Carolina needed every one of those yards as Josh Downs started the game quietly with three catches for eight yards. Green would finish the game with 10 catches for 180 yards and two TDs.

In the second half, Downs came alive as the offense looked to beat Pitt’s pressure by getting the star junior in space on screens. Downs carved up the Panther defense, and finished the game with 11 catches for 102 yards and two scores. He’d be a fine choice for Player of the Game.

Ultimately, the winner had to be Drake Maye. The redshirt freshman was asked to win the game with his arm, since the run game was not producing much against Pitt’s stout defense. He responded with a bevy of career highs: pass attempts (44), completions (34), passing yards (388), and tied his high mark of five passing touchdowns. He also only took two sacks against swarming pressure, and did not turn the ball over.

In the second half, after Phil Longo made some adjustments to mitigate Pitt’s pass rush and get Downs more involved, Maye did not make a wrong move. Carolina scored touchdowns in its last four drives in a row (ignoring the final victory formation drive). The Tar Heels were in safe hands.

More impressive still is that he did this despite suffering a nasty cut to his throwing hand at the end of the first half, when he took a targeting hit to the head, and had his outstretched hand smashed by Calijah Kancey’s facemask.

ACC Network could not stop singing Maye’s praises after the game and said that Drake Maye would definitely be in New York for the Heisman Trophy ceremony. With the performances (and sky-rocketing numbers) he’s putting up, who could argue with them?