Saturday’s North Carolina win over Virginia ended up playing out like several other games in the Tar Heels’ winning streak. After a less than stellar first, a combination of enough plays on both sides of the ball allowed UNC to pull away for a 31-28 win. In this week’s case, most of the important plays came from the offense, and a lot came from wide receiver Josh Downs.
Downs had a massive day for the Tar Heels on Saturday, finishing the game with 15 catches for 166 yards and a touchdown. Those 15 catches got him within just one of the school record for most in a single game.
While he ended with “only” one touchdown, it was a big one as it capped off a drive that saw UNC answer after the Cavaliers had just taken the lead. It put the Heels up 24-21, and they would never trail after that.
While that was his only TD on the day, it was far from his only important catch. Five of them came on third downs, and he also made a critical one for a first down with two minutes left that basically sealed the game. Seven of Downs’ receptions gained Carolina at least 10 yards, and nine of them moved the chains for first downs.
Meanwhile on punt return duty, he added another 57 yards. Most of them came on a 38-yard return that set Carolina up on the UVA 37 with just under six minutes left while up 10. That return probably should’ve put the game away, but a combination of a bad drive by the offense and then a bad one from the defense left the game temporarily still in the balance. However, it was an another excellent play in an excellent day for Downs. He is UNC’s number one receiver for a reason.
Beyond Downs, the guy who was throwing the balls to him was also worthy of consideration. Drake Maye had another big day for the Tar Heels, completing 26 of 37 pass attempts for 293 yards and two touchdowns. He also picked up 74 yards on the ground on 16 attempts. In general, UNC didn’t have a dominant day on the ground, but Elijah Green was solid, finishing with 91 yards and a touchdown.
It also wasn’t an especially impressive day from the defense, but Cedric Gray finished with 16 tackles (10 solo), a sack, and two pass breakups.
UNC’s game in Charlottesville was a lot closer that we would’ve all hoped, but the Heels came away with the victory, thanks in large part to Josh Downs.