For North Carolina to come away with a win in a hostile environment against a good team who’s been favored over them at points is not a bad thing. The fact is, UNC took some blows and dealt some back out, and when the dust settled, they had more points, and this game went in the win column.
How and why the final score game to be 63-61 is something that should and will be broken down plenty by UNC fans this week ahead of next Saturday. That’s because what happened to lead that to happen included a lot of bad things However, let’s take some time to look back on the play of someone who (mostly, other than one moment) contributed to the good things of Carolina’s win over Appalachian State.
Drake Maye was once again the star for UNC, stepping up in a big way in his first start against a fellow FBS team. He finished the game with a passing line of 24-36 for 352 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for another TD, finishing with 76 yards on 12 carries (85 yards, if you factor out sacks). He came up big in several important moments, and the game could’ve ended up very different if he wasn’t as good as he was.
After the Tar Heels fell behind two scores early, Maye led the offense on three-straight scoring drives to end the half, turning a 14-point deficit into a seven-point lead at halftime. Include the second half and at one point, UNC scored on six consecutive possessions, opening up a 41-21 lead. Maye either threw a touchdown or ran one in on three of those scores, helping put the Heels on the verge of putting the game away.
Of course, that did not quite happen as the defensive struggles reemerged, helping App stick around. Early in the fourth quarter, his one glaring negative also happened, when Maye fumbled on the first play after the Mountaineers had scored. App recovered the fumble and scored a couple plays later, getting back within a touchdown.
However, Maye would lead Carolina on a drive to answer right back, and would again late the fourth quarter after the Mountaineers had come all the way back to tie the game. His touchdown pass to D.J. Jones with 2:50 left should’ve put away the game. It didn’t because of the defense’s issues, but other than the fumble and a slightly off throw here or there, Maye wasn’t the reason things were so tight at the end.
Besides him, other good performances for UNC came from Kobe Paysour (92 yards on eight catches and his first career touchdown) and Caleb Hood (six carries for 87 yards). Things were a mess on the defense, as mentioned several times, but that really wasn’t on Cedric Gray, who recorded a game-high 13 tackles and had an interception.
Coming into the season, quarterback was a pretty big question mark for UNC. Replacing Sam Howell effectively wasn’t a given. It’s only two games, and several tough tests still away, but it’s hard not to feel good about Drake Maye.