clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UNC vs. NC State: Player of the Game — Drake Maye

A fighter even when the fight is lost.

North Carolina v NC State Photo by Lance King/Getty Images

North Carolina Football’s late-season woes continued in dramatic fashion last night in Raleigh. NC State dismantled Mack Brown’s (now 8-4) team that was punked in every facet of the game by the more energized Wolfpack. The final score of 39-20 was the Tar Heels largest regular season loss since September 2021. What was foreseen to be a gut check for North Carolina after losing three out of the last five very quickly became a gut punch. There isn’t much to analyze other than the fact that UNC was dominated from start to finish.

It is not an overreaction to say there were zero bright spots in Saturday night’s game. That said, quarterback Drake Maye earned this week’s Player of the Game after the resilience he showed until the clock showed triple zeros.

This was nowhere near a typical Drake Maye performance, but he still managed to total 360 total scrimmage yards and three scores. The three turnovers are slightly misleading, as two were off of pass catchers hands. The stat line, though, is not exactly the reason he earned this award in what was likely his final regular season game in Carolina blue.

Drake Maye is arguably the most talented quarterback ever to play for North Carolina, and there is, unfortunately, little to show for his storied career. How that came to be is a different conversation for a different time, but you would never know Drake was an expected top-5 pick in next year’s NFL Draft after what he did as time ticked down late in the fourth quarter.

If it wasn’t for a couple of quick touchdown drives, this final score would have been much worse. Per usual, Drake orchestrated those with some key throws, but the critical moment that earned him Player of the Game came with nearly nine minutes remaining when Drake went down holding his leg. It was a 19-point game with the score entirely out of reach, but somehow, someway, Drake Maye wanted to be on the field, taking every last snap he possibly could. He trotted back on the field with the offense on the next drive.

The fight and grit on a guy who doesn’t typically show much emotion indicates how tough Drake Maye really is. In a game that was a complete disaster from the get-go, Drake left everything out on the field, and reminded everyone watching of what North Carolina means to him.

I hope you didn’t take his talent for granted. We did see flashes tonight of how elite he is as a thrower and a runner, but it wasn’t easy to appreciate with the lopsided score. But, along with being credited with all 20 of the Tar Heels’ points in last night’s box score, he earned this award because of his loyalty and commitment to run back on the field, even with all that is at stake down the road in his career.

If that’s it for Drake, it makes me sick that it had to end this way.