If you happened to miss yesterday afternoon’s game between UNC and App State, I am both sorry and jealous that you missed it. The entire game felt like the American Eagle roller coaster at Six Flags Great America: there are fun moments, but also the ride was extremely rickety/shaky and I walked away with a headache. Undoubtedly the Tar Heel offense was the highlight of the game, but trying to celebrate 63 points when the other team scored 61 is a unique challenge.
Let’s go ahead and dive into the three things that we learned from this game.
Drake Maye is the real deal
Last week, Drake Maye put on quite a performance against FAMU, but to be perfectly honest there was still part of me that wondered how much of that was real and how much of it was because FAMU was down so many players. One would have to think that a road game against a team that would love nothing more than to send the Heels home crying on the bus would tell us everything we need to know about Maye, right? Well if that’s the case, what we learned is really, really good.
Drake Maye was unstoppable against the Mountaineers, and finished the day completing 24 of his 36 passes for 352 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for 76 yards and a touchdown, showing off just how versatile of a quarterback he is. Much like the game against FAMU, Maye threw the ball to numerous receivers, and four different players caught touchdown passes delivered by him. While there were obvious low points in yesterday’s win, it’s really exciting to see that Sam Howell’s replacement is a star in the making, and it’ll be really hard for the Heels to be truly out of a game with Luke’s younger brother under center.
The defense is bad and it should feel bad
As good as Drake Maye and the Carolina offense was yesterday, the defense made sure to keep things interesting by giving up 664 yards(!!!) and 61 points. The worst part is that 40 of those points were scored in the fourth quarter, and if it weren’t for an overthrown pass on a two-point conversion or Chase Brice failing to convert with his feet, we would probably spend this entire article yelling about bad tackling and bad penalties. By the way, the Heels gave up 115 yards in penalties, just in case the total amount of yards they surrendered wasn’t enough. Needless to say, there is a lot of work left to do with the defense, but the question is how much will be able to change as the season progresses?
The easy target when trying to figure out what went wrong is the secondary — Chase Brice tore them apart for 361 yards, six touchdown passes, and just one interception. However, the first level of defense wasn’t any better either, as they gave up 288 rushing yards and three touchdowns. It’s really disheartening that the return of Gene Chizik has given us the exact same defensive performance that we would’ve expected from Jay Bateman, but that also tells us that there is more going on with this group than who is calling the plays. Make of that what you will, but all I know is this: something needs to change, or Notre Dame will steamroll the Heels when they come to Chapel Hill.
The great running back problem
Last week’s game against FAMU made it easy to wonder whether or not we would see a different running back excel each week. Omarion Hampton, George Pettaway, and Caleb Hood have been quite the three-headed monster, but it was Hood’s turn yesterday to be the star of the show. He ran the ball six times for 87 yards and averaged 14.5 yards per carry. While he failed to score a touchdown, he played a huge role in Carolina’s monster offensive performance.
Pettaway and Hampton cooled off quite a bit from their performances last week, as they finished with 51 total rushing yards, but they each found the end zone once. We’ve seen Carolina offenses in previous years play the running back with the hot hand, and it just so happened to be that Hood was that guy against the Mountaineers. It should be interesting to see who stands out next week against Georgia State, but it’s safe to say that the running back group is going to be really fun to watch this season.