UNC struck first Saturday afternoon in Atlanta when Drake Maye hit Kamari Morales for a 55-yard touchdown to kick off scoring in their 35-28 win over Georgia State. Since we all narrowly survived the angina they caused in last week’s narrow escape in Boone, the big play was certainly a welcome sight. Throughout most of the first half it looked like UNC might finally give their fans an easy, stress-free afternoon. That, dear reader, was not what happened.
Georgia State got a touchdown late in the first half to make it 21-10 UNC, which doesn’t sound all that bad, but it was actually foreshadowing a third quarter of struggle ahead for the Carolina defense. After halftime, the Panthers got a touchdown, a field goal, and another touchdown to take a 28-21 lead. If you’ve watched the UNC defense over the last two weeks, this was beginning to feel pretty ominous.
Thankfully, the UNC offense has been up to the task. Omarion Hampton took it in from 58 yards in the final seconds of the third quarter to bring the Tar Heels back even. Hampton punched it in from two yards out halfway through the fourth quarter to put UNC up for good. That was the only scoring done in the entire fourth quarter.
Drake Maye threw for 284 yards and two touchdowns with one interception. Hampton and DJ Jones were responsible for the touchdowns on the ground. As has been the case so far this season, Maye did a good job of spreading the ball around to his receivers with Josh Downs missing this game with an injury as well. Morales’ touchdown run made him the top receiver with John Copenhaver and Kobe Paysour not that far behind.
Last week, penalties plagued the Heels all game. They were much more disciplined this time around, being called for just four penalties for 50 yards. Unfortunately, they made up for the improvement there by turning the ball over three times. They lost two fumbles in the game. Carolina did hold the Panthers to just three points off their mistakes, which is a silver lining.
The win makes UNC 3-0 for the first time since 2011. Almost anything would have been an improvement over last week’s defensive fiasco, but they rebounded pretty well even with a shaky third quarter to point to.
Everyone will have a week to prepare for the toughest test of the season so far when Notre Dame comes to Chapel Hill on September 24th.