One of the biggest questions that arose in the 2022 season for the UNC football program was how Drake Maye would fare as a full-time starter this season.
After three years of excellent quarterback play under Sam Howell, the Tar Heels handed the keys to Maye in what turned out to be ‘one of the best first games’ head coach Mack Brown has ever seen as UNC defeated Florida A&M, 56-24
“So proud of Drake (Maye). One of the best first games I’ve ever seen,” Brown said after the game. “I was ready. He was precise. His running ability from him was good.”
Maye, the red-shirted freshman, was not only ready from the start, she maintained that poise throughout the game. She went 29-for-37 for 294 yards and five touchdowns. She also added 55 rushing yards.
Maye’s five touchdowns made him the first North Carolina quarterback to throw at least five touchdowns in his first career start.
“I was a little bit anxious and I get nervous before every match no matter who it is. So it felt good to be with the guys,” Maye said after the game. “I think everyone can see that we have a lot of talent, we just need to put it together… There were some nerves in the first game. I just told myself that I have been practicing for a year and a half for this. All this work I’ve done will be worth it. Just trust the process and trust my teammates.”
The Tar Heels entered the season opener with the news that starting wide receiver Antione Greene was expected to potentially have up to 10 weeks of injury. Who would assume that role in Greene’s absence was an intriguing story. What Maye did, though, was get everyone involved to fill that role.
In all, 10 players caught one pass and seven players caught multiples. AP Preseason Second Team USA Josh Downs did what was expected and led the Heels with nine receptions for 78 yards. He added two touchdowns.
One piece of the passing game that was not expected to be as popular as it appeared to be was the use of numerous tight ends. The trio of Kamari Morales, Bryson Nesbit and John Copenhaver combined for eight catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
Maye’s ability to spread the ball down the field was something that impressed Mack Brown.
“I thought the fact that the ball was distributed to so many different people is another credit to Drake,” Brown said. “It went to the open boy. I think he had two short balls to Josh and other than that, I don’t think he threw a bad ball. Maybe he brought down Gavin Blackwell and someone hit him in the face at that point, but I thought he distributed the ball the way so many guys got him.”
Despite the numbers Maye put up, there were still some struggles, but that was to be expected. The fact that she was not only able to work out those teething problems, but far exceeded expectations for his first career start, shows what North Carolina has under center to move toward tougher competition.
“He had to compete for a spot in the (quarterback) room and, and I think like Sam (Howell), he thinks this is what he’s supposed to do,” Brown said. “He grew up thinking, ‘I’m going to be Carolina’s quarterback.’ And when he committed to Alabama, I told him, ‘I’m hanging in there, man, and you don’t need to be anywhere but here. This is a place where you have to be at school.’ And I think he has a chance to be really good.”
Maye’s next test is next weekend in what will be his first road game as the starting quarterback. The Tar Heels are headed to the spirited state of Appalachia.
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The story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire