The UNC football team (3-0, 0-0 ACC) bested Minnesota (2-1, 1-0 B1G), 31-13 Saturday afternoon at Kenan Stadium in the teams' first ever matchup.
The opening drive began with a three-yard pass to junior wide receiver Nate McCollum, which set the tone for the rest of the possession. Sophomore quarterback Drake Maye continued to target McCollum, throwing to him five times culminating in a 46-yard touchdown. Junior kicker Noah Burnette made the extra point to give UNC a early 7-0 lead.
On the ensuing drive, Minnesota quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis opened with a 25-yard pass to running back Darius Taylor. The Golden Gophers then ran the ball down the center for two consecutive gains. However, their momentum was stifled by senior defensive lineman Desmond Evans who put pressure on Kaliakmanis, causing him to release a shaky pass that junior linebacker Power Echols intercepted.
Maye continued to seek out McCollum, throwing to him on two occasions for 31 yards.
"I threw around the yard," Maye said. "I've got to make some better decisions early on, but [Nate's] a hell of a player, and he's gonna get open."
However, the offense fell stagnant, with two unsuccessful rushing attempts and a sack on third down to force Maye to punt.
The Golden Gophers looked stronger on their second offensive attempt, firing off a 13-yard pass followed by a crafty, 16-yard run from Taylor. The UNC defense quickly regrouped and put pressure on Kaliakmanis, almost forcing an interception and turning over possession.
“Defensively we’re getting better," head coach Mack Brown said. "We are getting better. We played a lot of players on defense in the secondary.”
To start the second quarter, the Tar Heels looked to junior running back Omarian Hampton, who rushed twice for a combined 25 yards. Maye then fired off a 55-yard pass to junior wide receiver JJ Jones to get the Tar Heels within one yard of the end zone. Hampton finished the play, scoring a touchdown to give North Carolina a two-score lead.