Sam Howell holds the majority of North Carolina’s passing records. He was just another Tar Heel supporter, who happened to be there during Saturday’s 63-61 victory over Appalachian State.
Howell, now a quarterback with the NFL’s Washington Commanders, stood in the back corner of the end zone as UNC redshirt freshman quarterback Drake Maye finished off a 12-yard touchdown run.
Maye acknowledged the three year starter and record-setter he was replacing, and slapped five. The exchange could be considered an official sign that the torch has been passed.
“I told him after I ran it in, I should’ve got on a knee and held the ball up to him because what he did here is pretty incredible,”Maye said.
Former North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell meets Drake Maye (10) with the offensive unit after scoring their touchdown against Appalachian State at Kidd Brewer Stadium. [email protected]
Here are three things we learned from Carolina’s victory:
In Maye, we trust
It’s just two games into his career, but Maye’s not only looking like a viable replacement for Howell, but like he could one day bump Howell from atop the many passing records he now holds.
Maye completed 24 out of 36 passes for 352 yard and four touchdowns in his road debut. Combined with last week’s performance against Florida A&M, he’s now got nine touchdown passes and no interceptions through 73 attempts.
He ran a two minute drill to perfection at the end of the first period. Carolina was on a nine-play, 72 yard scoring drive. The end result was capped off with a touchdown pass to Bryson Nesbit (10 yards) with just one second remaining.
App State was able to attract a record crowd at 40,168 after rallying from 20 down. Maye maintained his calmness while directing two more scoring drives. Maye still managed to throw a pass, even though he was looking down at a blitz that would take him out. Jones, running 42 yards for the score, ran out of the backfield. The Tar Heels never trailed in the second half.
UNC coach Mack Brown said the offense has already rallied around Maye and has so much confidence in him because he’s “old beyond his years.”Brown compared Maye’s performance to that of Colt McCoy, the former Texas quarterback. He never gets rattled.
“Drake Maye is a special young guy,”Brown said. “Did he screw some things up? Yes. Did we have some noise penalties where we had motion? Yes. Did we fumble the ball and give them a chance to get back in the game with a freshman quarterback? Yes. But they scored 63 points and when they needed to answer, they did answer.”
App State had made the two-point conversion with 31 seconds remaining, and the Heels were so confident that it would have been enough time for Maye’s team to score the winning goal.
“He’s just a gamer,”Kobe Paysour, UNC Receiver, said. “He’s just a great player, great quarterback. So whatever he says, I feel like it’s correct.”
Drake Maye (10, North Carolina quarterback) rushes for seven yard against Appalachian State in the second quarter at Kidd Brewer Stadium, Boone, N.C. Robert Willett [email protected]
Similar results, new defense
App State started slow, scoring touchdowns in each of its first three series. However, the Tar Heels allowed just 65 yards in quarter two and 56 in quarter three.
These numbers are quite remarkable considering that they gave up 338 yards total offense in the fourth quarter. (By comparison they allowed FAMU only 335 yards of total offense last week.
Six of the the Mountaineers’ “explosive plays”In the fourth quarter, there were also 20-plus yards.
“I feel like the defense as a whole, we got a little bit complacent and we started feeding into the crowd noise and stuff like that and not focusing on the task at hand,” defensive back Deandre Boykins said.
It’s a small sample size, sure, but through two games it’s hard to identify one area that Carolina’s defense has clearly improved over last season. Add in a few untimely penalties and it’s the exact same plays that frustrated Brown last season and led to former defensive coordinator Jay Bateman’s departure.
“It’s what we did last year, we had too many penalties on defense and too many explosive plays,”Brown said. “And that’s what you got to quit doing.”
The Mountaineers have increased their passing game. App State quarterback Chase Brice was able throw deep, unlike last week’s game against Florida A&M. Brice threw 218 yards in quarter four.
“We made those adjustments and they were working and then they kind of came back and made their own adjustments,”Cedric Gray, linebacker, said. “It was a long game as well. That probably took a toll on us, but it’s four quarters to football so we got to play. We’ve just got to go back and fix all the mistakes that we made defensively.”
North Carolinas Power Echols (23), celebrates with Cedric Gray (33), following Gray’s interception during the third quarter at Kidd Brewer Stadium. The match was held in Boone on Saturday, September 3, 2022. Robert Willett [email protected]
Wide receivers can be matched
Three receivers from Carolina’s last season were lost to the transfer portal. Since the middle of August camp, the Tar Heels have been without Antoine Green. They knew before the game they’d be without Josh Downs too after he injured his left knee against Florida A&M last week.
The offense didn’t show any signs it would have difficulty in the passing department.
Redshirt freshman Kobe Paysour led the team with eight receptions for 92 yards and one touchdown. Paysour provided Maye some safety as half his catches came from third downs, which helps keep drives alive.
“Me and Drake, we’ve been throwing together since we was like in high school, so our connection has been there before college,”Paysour, who hails from Kings Mountain, said this.
J.J. Jones had four receptions all of last season, but he started in place of Downs on Saturday and delivered big plays on Carolina’s opening drive of the game. Jones caught a 31-yarder as well as a 23 yard touchdown. He now has seven catches this season, and finished the season with 69 yards at Appstate.
Gavin Blackwell caught four passes and a touchdown in the game against FAMU. On the opening drive of half-time, he had a 36 yard reception to set up a Carolina touchdown. It was one of six passes Maye completed that went over 20 yards.
“To not bring our probably best offensive player,”Brown of Downs. “In fact, period, our best offensive player — our two best receivers — on the road and still score 63 points, you got to feel good about where we’re headed.”
This story was first published in September 4, 2022, 6:54 AM
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C.L. C.L. Brown is the University of North Carolina reporter for The News & Observer. Brown has more then two decades of experience as a reporter, including stints at Indiana University’s beat writer and at the University of Louisville. After a long stay at the Louisville Courier-Journal, where he earned an APSE award, he’s had stops at ESPN.com, The Athletic and even tried his hand at running his own website, clbrownhoops.com.