The Daily Tar Heel

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Saturday January 28th

Halftime reactions: UNC football trails Clemson in ACC Championship, 24-10

UNC redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye (10) scores a touchdown during the 2022 Subway ACC Football Championship Game against Clemson to begin at the Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. UNC fell to Clemson 39-10.
Buy Photos UNC redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye (10) scores a touchdown during the 2022 Subway ACC Football Championship Game against Clemson to begin at the Bank of America Stadium on Saturday, Dec. 3, 2022. UNC fell to Clemson 39-10.

It's halftime at the ACC Championship Game, and North Carolina trails Clemson, 24-10.

Here are three main takeaways from the first half:

Maye back in rhythm

Following two lackluster outings, redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye regained his footing on the team's first drive by completing five of his six passes for 47 yards. Maye was effective as both a passer and a runner and evaded an all-out blitz to find junior wide receiver Josh Downs on a third and short in the red zone, which paved the way for a his own touchdown scamper on the next play.

Although Maye soon coughed up a fumble on a mishandled handoff that gave Clemson prime field position late in the first quarter, Maye responded to help the Tar Heels move down the field in their next drive. Despite regularly getting blitzed by as many as seven players, Maye withstood the pressure to deliver strikes to receivers in timely situations, especially on third down, where he made four timely conversions to move the chains.

Maye finished the half with 15 completions and 173 total yards. If the Tar Heels want to make the comeback, they'll need to provide more pass protection that will enhance Maye's comfort in the pocket. 

Defense starts off strong, then sputters against Klubnik

After operating a "bend, don't break" defensive scheme for most of the season, assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik dialed up an aggressive gameplan on Clemson's first two drives. The Tar Heels forced two straight three-and-outs and held the Tigers to 12 yards.

On the Tigers' third possession, the Tar Heels were given a different look when Clemson benched quarterback D.J. Uiagalelei for Cade Klubnik, the top quarterback in the 2022 class. Klubnik made an immediate impact by leading the Tigers down the field that was capped off by a one-yard touchdown pass that tied the game.

After the Maye fumble, Clemson punched in a touchdown two plays later to give the team the lead. On the next drive, Klubnik unleashed a 68-yard bomb that set up another score that made it 21-7 with just over six minutes to play.

Following Klubnik's dominance — completing his first 10 passes for 149 yards — the Tar Heels continued their recurring theme of failing to slow down backup quarterbacks. Secondary signal callers have yet to skip a beat against UNC's defense, and with plenty of momentum building, the Tar Heels could be in for a long second half if they don't make the proper adjustments.

Mishaps slow down UNC's offense

Aside from the Maye fumble that helped the Tigers steal momentum and take the lead, the Tar Heels have also squandered several opportunities to pull closer.

When UNC drove into the red zone trailing 14-7, Clemson defensive back Nate Wiggins made a key pass breakup that forced a field goal attempt. With nobody blocking the right edge, Wiggins raced into the backfield and batted away Noah Burnette's kick to keep points off the board.

On its final drive of the half, UNC had a first-and-goal opportunity but settled for a field goal after the offense stalled in three plays.

@hunternelson_1 

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com 

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