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Drake Maye earns a likely 'fairytale ending' to Kenan career in double-overtime victory over Duke

20231111 - UNC FOOTBALL VS. DUKE HOMECOMING GAME
UNC sophomore quarterback Drake Maye (10) jumps over Duke senior safety Jaylen Stinson (2) during the homecoming game against Duke in Kenan Stadium on Saturday, Nov. 11, 2023. UNC beat Duke 47-45.

As Beau Maye stood in the stands, watching a sea of UNC students and fans pour onto the field following what was likely his little brother’s last home game, it was hard to piece together his emotions.

“I couldn’t even tell you,” he told The Daily Tar Heel. “It’s kind of just crazy after the game. It’s an unbelievable ending. It’s hard to really fathom.”

His words were soon cut short. Drake Maye was making his appearance on ACC Huddle on the far side of the field. The crowd surrounding him roared, “One more year! One more year!”

The sophomore quarterback, a projected top-three NFL draft pick, could only chuckle in response. And, if this is truly his final home game, could it have been scripted any better?

In a 47-45 double-overtime win over rival Duke, Maye once again came up clutch for No. 24 North Carolina, orchestrating a crucial overtime-forcing drive in regulation and scoring a go-ahead touchdown in the second overtime. Maye's 342 passing yards and late-game heroics allowed the Tar Heels to retain the Victory Bell for the fifth straight year.

Although, he might have had a difficult time reaching the bell after the game.

After Duke’s try at a game-tying two-point conversion went awry, UNC students rushed the field. Soon, “Jump Around,” “All I Do Is Win,” and “Hark the Sound,” blasted from the speakers as fans danced. Some, overcome by emotion, just laid down on the turf.

The last time North Carolina fans stormed the field — following an upset victory over No. 9 Wake Forest in 2021 Maye, who was redshirted for the season, was, in his own words, “a nobody.”

“I was just Luke Maye’s brother,” he said.

But this time?

“I had a lot of people coming up to me, I was slapping some hands, but I was just trying to get out of there,” he said. “I didn’t really know what to do.”

While the field storming may have come as a surprise to Maye, UNC’s ultimate win didn’t. Despite a Duke interception and score, a recovered onside kick and a three-point deficit for UNC with 41 seconds left in regulation, Maye remained composed.

“He played with confidence and he never even flinched,” head coach Mack Brown said. “When there was 41 seconds left, I said, ‘Hey,’ and he said, ‘We’re good, Coach. We got this.’"

In just six plays and 38 seconds, Maye moved the ball down to Duke's 25-yard line to set up Noah Burnette’s game-tying field goal. 

Then, in double overtime, Maye rushed toward the end zone, spinning and finally extending his left arm to record a five-yard touchdown. On the ensuing two-point play — which Brown said “normal people just don’t make" — Maye sealed the game. With two Blue Devil defenders closing in, he kept his head up and found junior tight end John Copenhaver for a short pass. 

“I think he’s as good as anybody I’ve ever been around,” Brown said. “He’s unbelievable, and I said that to the team in there. We have the best quarterback in the country.”

And although Maye admitted he still prefers last year’s winning touchdown pass to Antoine Green at Wallace Wade Stadium as his favorite moment of the rivalry, he took a second after the game with the ACC Huddle crew to soak in the moment.

Maye hasn’t confirmed his plans for next year. But if this game serves as a bookend to his career at Kenan, the quarterback agreed there's perhaps no better way for him to go out.

It’s a fairytale ending."

@shelbymswanson

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Shelby Swanson

Shelby Swanson is the 2023-24 sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. She has previously served as an assistant sports editor and senior writer. Shelby is a junior pursuing a double major in media and journalism and Hispanic literatures and cultures.