If we are to take anything from UNC’s first game of the season, it is that this game felt like a warm-up for the first regular season game next weekend against App State. While that sounds like a slight against Florida A&M, who played as tough as anybody couldn’t hoped for, what I actually mean is that the Heels still have a few things to figure out over the next seven days. Does that sound weird to say when the game was 56-24? Of course, but it doesn’t make it any less true.
Let’s start with the good: Drake Maye was spectacular in his starting debut for the Tar Heels. He finished the game completing 29 of his 37 passes for 294 yards and five touchdowns. His passes looked extremely sharp all night long, and he hit 6+ receivers in a bunch of different spots on the field. The one thing that stuck out to me the most is that it never felt like he forced plays, and he took what the Ratttlers’ defense gave him all night. He also is a lot more mobile than expected, and had an insane run towards the end zone where a defender spun him in mid-air. It appears that Mack Brown made the right choice when it comes to the starting quarterback, and I would expect Maye to keep his spot for the rest of the season.
The running backs were also very impressive in this game, with just about every player from that particular depth chart getting touches. The most impressive running back was Omarion Hampton, who ran the ball 14 times for 101 yards and two touchdowns. However, fellow freshman George Pettaway was also impressive, finishing the game with four carries for 51 yards and a touchdown. It’s hard to pin these two down as the leading duo for this year’s team, but if Phil Longo and Mack Brown decided they were going to roll with these two primarily, it wouldn’t surprise me. We will see if Elijah Green, Caleb Hood, or D.J. Jones find a way to make their cases for more touches next week against App State.
Now for the not so great: UNC’s defense made some good plays against the Rattlers, but for the most part this still looks like a group that is looking for their identity. FAMU managed to convert both of their fourth down attempts, they had 335 total yards, and scored three touchdowns despite missing a number of their players. Once again we witnessed bend-don’t-break coverages that did nothing but give the Rattlers yards, though the Heels did manage to force a couple of turnovers regardless. Gene Chizik will undoubtedly take a long, hard look at tonight’s game and figure out what they need to tweak before next weekend, and it’s really hard to come to any harsh conclusions after a week zero game. However, it’s a little concerning to see more of the same with this group, and I hope we see less of it moving forward.
Overall, UNC did what they needed to do against FAMU, and now they can start focusing on next week’s game against the Mountaineers. The last time these two teams met it went as bad as it could’ve went, so we will see if the Heels are motivated enough to make a statement on the road.