As Cameron Sexton prepared to leave the press room after Saturday's Boston College game he doubled back to greet and congratulate Hakeem Nicks.
Sexton grabbed his leading receiver into a hug grinning" and looked at him. ""My boy.""
Saturday" Nicks sure was.
Sexton connected with Nicks eight times for 139 yards and three touchdowns and Nicks grabbed another score on a rush" a threat he showed off for the first time against BC — and to great success.
""I'm not an English major" but I think ‘fantastic' would maybe describe it coach Butch Davis said after the game. He is one of the unique special guys I have seen that the bigger the moment and the bigger the stage" the better he plays.""
""Fantastic"" works. Sexton went with ""unbelievable"" while Boston College coach Jeff Jagodzinski chose outstanding.""
Whichever way you say it" one thing is clear: Nicks is no longer UNC's second-most-heralded playmaker.
And while Nicks has had to step up and fill the shoes left open by senior Brandon Tate" he and Sexton always seemed to have a certain something that draws the ball to No. 88's hands.
""Me and Hakeem have always had kind of a special bond"" said Sexton, who called Nicks his best friend.
And I just know that I've got to get him the ball. And I think he knows he has a pretty good idea that he's going to get it.""
And Saturday" from the moment Nicks woke up" he knew it would be a big game.
""I even told my teammates before the game started. I said I felt like I was going to have a career day" Nicks said. So I just went out there contributed to the team the best way possible" and that's what happened.""
They started in the second quarter — a 26-yard TD pass from Sexton. Then a 40-yard TD. Two minutes later"" 43-yard score. That's a quick 21 points for Nicks (""That hasn't happened since high school"" he said).
And even then, Nicks wasn't done.
He ended the game as UNC's second-leading rusher with 31 yards on three attempts and a touchdown, UNC's last of the game.
And each was impressive in its own way. Perhaps none, though, was as important for momentum as the 43-yard grab to end the first half and give UNC a lead it would never give up.
I went to Coach Davis on the sideline" and I said ‘We are going to go for the touchdown" right?'"" Nicks said. ""He looked back at me and said" ‘Shoot" yeah.' So I felt like I just had to make a play.""
And he did. Taking advantage of Sexton's newly debuted deep ball and a nifty block by fellow receiver Brooks Foster"" Nicks went long to the house to close the quarter.
""That was real big" Nicks said of Foster's block. I told him that if it wasn't for that block I probably wouldn't have seen the cutback. He did a good job down the field at clearing out" and I came through.""
Nicks' first-half finale brought back visions of the quarter's opening act.
That time" on UNC's first touchdown of the game" Nicks leapt for a one-handed grab (""It was kind of a bad throw"" Sexton said) and then evaded tackles at the two to cross the white line just inside the corner.
As the crowd erupted, the players shrugged.
Oh" man I've seen much better catches from him in practice and games Sexton said afterwards. I mean" that's about a routine catch for him.""
Nicks says Tate's absence doesn't put too much pressure on him. He might see double coverage" sure" but it's all in a day's work for No. 88.
""I just know I have to step up and contribute the best way possible. Every time they call on my name"" I just feel like I have to make a play.""
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