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Wednesday December 7th

UNC football crushes Virginia Tech, 41-10, in bounce-back win at Kenan Stadium

UNC first-year quarterback Drake Maye (10) seeks an open pass during a home football game at Kenan Stadium against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. UNC won 41-10.
Buy Photos UNC first-year quarterback Drake Maye (10) seeks an open pass during a home football game at Kenan Stadium against Virginia Tech on Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022. UNC won 41-10.

The North Carolina football team (4-1, 1-0 ACC) defeated Virginia Tech (2-3, 1-1 ACC), 41-10, at Kenan Stadium on Saturday evening to open up ACC play.

What happened?

The Hokies forced a punt on UNC’s opening drive and marched down the field for their first drive, but a false start forced them to settle for a 34-yard field goal.

North Carolina sophomore running back Caleb Hood opened up the second drive with a strong 12-yard rush to the right. Two plays later, Maye darted a pass to sophomore tight end John Copenhaver for a 29-yard gain, followed by an 18-yard run from Hood.

With the ball spotted at the 7-yard line, head coach Mack Brown elected to go for it on 4th and 1. Three short runs later, the Tar Heels successfully converted a 4th and 3 when Maye found graduate tight end Kamari Morales on a left drag route for a touchdown.

North Carolina’s defense continued to contain the Hokies, forcing another punt. Maye connected with senior receiver Antoine Green in stride for a 21-yard completion, followed by a quick bubble screen to first-year running back Omarion Hampton for a 9-yard gain to close out the second quarter.

To open up the second quarter, Maye found junior receiver Josh Downs on back-to-back plays for 24 and 18 yards, respectively. Two plays later, a play-action Maye keeper put UNC up 14-3.

Just two minutes later, North Carolina got the ball back when junior linebacker Cedric Gray picked off Hokie quarterback Grant Wells’ pass and returned it for 17 yards. On the very next play, Maye floated a pass to Green in the right corner of the end zone on a play-action for 16 yards.

UNC forced another punt, but as it began to rain with 6:30 to play in the half, Virginia Tech forced a three-and-out to regain possession. The Hokies milked the clock with short runs and check downs, save for a 25-yard run from running back Keshawn King. With under 30 seconds left in the half, Wells scored on a 2-yard quarterback draw.

In response, Maye completed quick passes to sophomore tight end Bryson Nesbit and Green for 34 combined yards along with a 14-yard rush to set up a 44-yard field goal from sophomore kicker Noah Burnette. UNC led 24-10 at halftime.

North Carolina forced a punt and its offense started at its own 6-yard line. In just four minutes, a series of deep passes to Downs and Nesbit drove UNC 92 yards down the field. Maye capped off the drive with a touchdown on a 2-yard quarterback sneak.

After a Virginia Tech three-and-out, Maye connected with Nesbit for 20 yards, followed by a 35-yard run by Hampton. Then, Maye tried to hurdle a Hokie defender, flipping on his back for a 6-yard gain. With Maye sidelined, sophomore quarterback Jacolby Criswell’s first pass attempt of the season was broken up in the end zone, forcing UNC to settle for a 21-yard field goal.

The Tar Heels forced another three-and-out, with Maye quickly launching bombs to Downs and Nesbit to extend the lead to 41-10. North Carolina’s second string played the rest of the game.

Who stood out? 

Maye completed 26 of his 36 passes, tossing three touchdowns for 363 yards. The quarterback also led the team in rushing with 73 yards and two touchdowns.

Although Downs didn’t score, he led all receivers with eight catches for 120 yards. Additionally, Green and Nesbit combined for 157 yards and two touchdowns. 

On defense, Gray and sophomore linebacker Power Echols combined for 15 total tackles, with Gray snatching the team’s lone interception. 

When was it decided?

The game was decided midway through the third quarter, when UNC’s defense strung together a couple of stops as the offense continued to outplay Virginia Tech. With UNC holding a commanding 41-10 lead, the Hokies had no momentum going into the fourth quarter for the late comeback that Tar Heel fans are used to witnessing.

Why does it matter?

Although Virginia Tech’s offense is ranked lowest in the ACC by most statistical measures, a solid defensive performance is exactly what North Carolina needed after surrendering 45 points to Notre Dame last week. North Carolina forced multiple three-and-outs in the third quarter, giving Maye and his receiving corps plenty of time to dismantle the Hokie defense.

When do they play next?

The Tar Heels will travel south to face Miami on Saturday, Oct. 8, with kickoff slated for 4 p.m.

@danielhwei

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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