Drake Maye puts on ‘one of the best first games’ Mack Brown has seen

·3 min read

One of the biggest questions marks coming into the 2022 season for the UNC football program was how Drake Maye would perform as the full-time starter this season.

After three years of excellent quarterback play with Sam Howell, the Tar Heels turned the keys over to Maye in what turned out to be ‘one of the best first games’ head coach Mack Brown has ever seen as UNC took down Florida A&M, 56-24.

“Very proud of Drake (Maye). One of the best first games I’ve ever seen,” Brown said postgame. “He was poised. He was accurate. His running ability was good.”

The redshirt freshman Maye was not only sharp from the start, he maintained that poise throughout the entire game. He went 29-of-37 for 294 yards and five touchdowns. He added 55 yards on the ground as well.

Maye’s five touchdowns made him the first North Carolina QB to throw for at least five touchdowns in his first career start.

“I was a little anxious and I get nervous before every game regardless of who it is. So it felt good to be out there with the guys,” Maye said postgame. “I think y’all can see we’ve got a lot of talent, just need to it put together… There were some first-game jitters. I just kind of told myself that I’ve been practicing a year and a half for this. All this work I’ve done, it’s gonna pay off. Just trust the process and trust my teammates.”

The Tar Heels came into the season-opener fresh off of the news that expected starting wide receiver Antione Greene would potentially up to 10 weeks with an injury. Who would step into that role in Greene’s absence was an intriguing storyline. What Maye did, however, was get everyone involved to fill that role.

In total, 10 players caught a pass and seven players caught multiple. AP preseason Second-Team All-American Josh Downs did what was expected and that was leading the Heels with nine grabs for 78 yards. He added two touchdowns.

One piece to the passing game that wasn’t expected to be as popular as it showed up 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 across the field was something that Mack Brown was impressed with.

“I thought the fact that the ball was distributed to so many different people is another credit to Drake,” Brown said. “He went to the open guy. I think he had two balls that were short to Josh and other than that I don’t think he threw a bad ball. Maybe the overthrow to Gavin Blackwell and there was someone in his face then, but I thought him distributing the ball like that’s the reason so many guys caught it.”

Despite the numbers Maye put up, there were still some struggles — but that’s to be expected. The fact that he was able to not only work through those early issues but to far exceed expectations for his first career start, shows what North Carolina has under center moving forward into stiffer competition.

“He had to compete to have a place in the (quarterback) room and, and I think like Sam (Howell), he thinks this is what he’s supposed to be doing,” Brown said. “He grew up thinking, ‘I’ll be the quarterback of Carolina.’ And when he committed to Alabama, I said, ‘I’m hanging on, man and you don’t need to be anywhere but here. This is a place where you need to be in school.’ And I think he has a chance to be real good.”

Maye’s next test is next weekend in what will be his first road game as a starting quarterback. The Tar Heels head to feisty Appalachian State.

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Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire