Finishing their non-conference portion of the schedule, UNC moved to 3-0 on the year after beating Minnesota 31-13 in a game where their quarterback was definitely not at his absolute best and their ground game was virtually non-existent until late in the fourth quarter.
After Omarion Hampton ran all over the Mountaineers last week, the ground game was simply not happening today until the final UNC touchdown of the game. Carolina finished with 105 yards on the ground with Hampton leading the way with 46 yards and a touchdown. British Brooks returned to action with 25 yards and a score after missing last week with an injury. A large majority of the success was found through the air, to the tune of 414 yards passing for Drake Maye, with Nate McCollum coming just one reception short of tying the school record with 16. McCollum finished the game with 165 yards and a touchdown.
It was not flawless execution for the Tar Heels. Maye threw two of the worst interceptions we’ve seen from him and the offense sputtered against the Golden Gophers’ defense in the third quarter. As has been tradition, though, Maye doesn’t need a flawless game to be really, really good. That’s what makes him one of the best quarterbacks in the country.
The story of UNC Football in recent years has been that Maye had to be perfect, or even superhuman, in order for them to win games. There have been multiple occasions where even Maye’s heroics weren’t enough to overcome deficiencies elsewhere on the team. For maybe the first time in three years, we’ve seen Maye not have to be completely perfect and Carolina still come away with a win. It’s certainly been a welcome turn of events.
UNC definitely did not front load their schedule with a bunch of cupcake games. Hopefully the tougher tests serve them well as they head into conference play next week. The Tar Heels have definitely been tested and lived to tell the tale with a 3-0 record. If they are able to manage and clean up some of the more ticky-tack issues that have plagued them, they should be in really good shape.
The Tar Heels have their first true road game next Saturday when they take on Pittsburgh.