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Drake Maye, UNC football rattled again at home in rivalry game against N.C. State

UNC red-shirt first-year, Drake Maye (10), throws a pass in Kenan Stadium on Nov. 25, 2022, as the Tar Heels face off against the NC State Wolfpack.

In September, Drake Maye delivered a memorable line that the North Carolina State faithful have not forgotten.

“Whether you want to admit it or not, growing up in Carolina, you’re gonna be a Carolina fan,” the redshirt first-year quarterback told reporters. “Some people may say (N.C.) State, but really people who go to State just can’t get into Carolina.”

It was typical rivalry banter. Later that day, Maye issued an apology on Twitter, clarifying that it was a joke, albeit "inappropriate".

The North Carolina football team fell to N.C. State in double overtime, 30-27, in its final home game of the season. If Friday evening was any indication, the Wolfpack was determined to do two things: first, outplay UNC on both sides of the ball. Then, talk.

N.C. State’s defense badgered Maye into his second-worst statistical performance of the year. 

The signal caller passed for just 233 yards on a season-high 49 attempts and was hurried for a season-high 11 times. Part of Maye’s struggles was due to the Wolfpack electing to send only three pass rushers on most snaps, deploying the remaining eight defenders into pass coverage. 

Recognizing that UNC’s ground game has consistently been a lesser threat this season, N.C. State’s suffocating secondary negated separation opportunities for North Carolina’s receiving corps. 

Maye attempted 14 passes to his favorite target, Josh Downs. But the junior wideout finished with just six catches and 51 yards. Similarly, sophomore wide receiver J.J. Jones only managed three receptions on nine targets.

“When you drop eight guys and got four receivers, I mean, y’all can do the math,” Maye said. “They got double the amount we got.”

Maye’s biggest mishap came with 4:55 left in regulation. With the game tied at 17-17, he sensed pressure and darted forward, attempting a short throw to graduate tight end Kamari Morales. Defensive tackle Davin Vann’s outstretched hand bobbled the pass, and the ball landed in the hands of defensive back Tanner Ingle for a crucial interception.

“It’s always good to come over here and beat the blue people,” Ingle said. “We don’t like them at all.”

Then, fourth-string quarterback Ben Finley took the field.

This year, against North Carolina’s permeable defense, it hasn’t seemed to matter how experienced the quarterback under center is. Finley was no exception, as he slung a pass to redshirt junior wideout Devin Carter for a 26-yard touchdown and gave the Wolfpack a massive late-game momentum swing.

The former scout-team quarterback netted 271 passing yards and two touchdowns in his first career start. After the win, the visibly exhilarated Finley couldn’t even recount his postgame antics with certainty.

“I don’t even really remember... I think I grabbed the N.C. State flag and planted it on the field or something,” he said with a grin. “As I should have.”

For the second year in a row, the Tar Heels narrowly lost to the Wolfpack. And, for the second consecutive week, they lost in Kenan Stadium to a backup quarterback.

After the game, Maye didn’t try to hide his disappointment. When asked if he had a message to N.C. State players and fans, Maye’s words were few, giving a brief congratulations.

Though physically present, his mind seemed elsewhere — perhaps already looking to Saturday, where the team will face arguably its biggest test of the season in the ACC Championship.

“We’ll put it behind us, learn from it, and we got a big one next week against Clemson,” Maye said. 


@dthsports |

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.