A dominant ground game and rare defensive stop had the UNC football team celebrating on Saturday, Sept. 9 in front of its home fans, as it came-from-behind and took down App State, 40-34, in yet another offensive thriller.
This game looked very reminiscent of last year’s – teams moving the ball at will and struggling to get defensive stops. Offensive production came from virtually anyone in the second half, with UNC and App State combining for 54 second-half points.
During the 2022 battle in Boone, the Tar Heels and Mountaineers combined for 62 fourth-quarter points.
Omarion Hampton was college football’s top running back in Week 2, running for an insane 234 yards and 3 touchdowns on 26 carries. He practically picked up a first down, averaging nine yards per carry.
Hampton sits fifth among FBS leaders in total rushing yards (271), so it’d be hard not to start him against Minnesota on Saturday.
Drake Maye threw for over 200 yards, but he was, once again, largely held in check for a Heisman Trophy contender’s standards.
What does UNC need to do better offensively so it can move to 3-0? Or will the Tar Heels follow the same offensive blueprint from the win against App State?
Feed Hampton the ball early and often
Not seeing British Brooks take the field struck worry into the hearts of plenty UNC fans, as the Tar Heels would be without their leading Week 1 rusher against App State.
Omarion Hampton, thrust into starting duties, had UNC fans smiling from ear-to-ear by the game’s conclusion. He led all rushers – and the entire country – with 234 yards on 26 carries. Hampton found the end zone three times, including for the game-tying touchdown in overtime.
Brooks thoroughly exceeded expectations against South Carolina, rushing for over 100 yards in his first game action since 2021.
With 100-yard rushers in back-to-back games, it’ll be tough for UNC head coach Mack Brown to decide his starter. That is, assuming, Brooks is healthy again to play against Minnesota.
If Carolina wants any shot at beat the Golden Gophers, they’ll want to feed Hampton the rock early and often. Minnesota sports a Top-10 defense, allowing just 223.5 yards per game (8th-lowest), yet it allows 131 rushing yards per game.
Find a way to get Drake Maye going
Through two games, UNC quarterback Drake Maye is nowhere near the level of play needed to win the Heisman Trophy.
Maye has just 477 yards – which would be considered good among most quarterbacks – but he gained a TON of preseason hype. He also only has two passing touchdowns and already two interceptions, which both came against South Carolina.
Could it be because of a brand new wide receiver room? A new offensive coordinator in Chip Lindsey? Or simply because opposing teams have a year’s worth of game tape to study?
Regardless of who Maye’s throwing to against Minnesota on Saturday, he needs to find that same chemistry with someone – just like he did with Kobe Paysour in Week 1. The Golden Gophers are holding opponents to UNDER 100 passing yards a game – a sign Maye might have to use his legs to generate offense.
Continue playing clean football
Not only did the Tar Heels dominate offensively against App State, racking up 527 yards, they played clean football.
Not turning the ball over once likely played a large factor in UNC’s ability to trade punches with the pesky Mountaineers, who totaled 494 yards of their own, yet saw a Joey Aguilar interception turn into Carolina’s first lead of the game (20-17).
Carolina’s defense wasn’t stopping anyone, no matter how hard it tried. Players looked gassed, ready for Hampton to come back on the field and run holes through App’s secondary, so it was that much more important UNC didn’t turn the ball over once.
Minnesota already has a forced fumble and four interceptions, led by two from Tyler Nubin, through two games. It might be a little more difficult for Carolina to hold onto the ball Saturday, but prospects of a win look promising if it does.
Rid Ryan Coe of the yips
UNC kicker Ryan Coe was a perfect 5/5 on kicks against South Carolina, so his crucial miss against App State came as a surprise to many.
With the score knotted at 27, Carolina drove down the field late in the fourth quarter. The Tar Heels made it far enough into field goal range, as to where Coe could send Kenan Stadium into a frenzy with a game-winning kick.
Coe shanked his first attempt wide left, but Mountaineers head coach Shawn Clark called timeout to try and ice Coe, giving him a golden chance.
With the second snap to punter Ben Kiernan, Coe approached the ball once again. The result was similar – maybe even worse – as the ball was further off-target.
Granted, Coe went a perfect 4-for-4 on extra point attempts, but those are practically gimmes compared to NFL distance.
If UNC is in a tight situation, or struggles to score points like against App State in the first half, it’ll hope it sees the Coe who kicked against South Carolina.
Look to J.J. Jones or Kobe Paysour through the air
That young man was Kobe Paysour in Week 1, as he led UNC with 66 receiving yards and a touchdown on seven catches.
In Week 2, that young man was J.J. Jones, who caught five Maye passes for 91 yards. Jones only registered 24 receiving yards in the opener, but redeemed himself last week.
Paysour enjoyed a productive evening against App State, catching eight passes for 73 yards,
While the Jones-Paysour duo isn’t quite at the Josh Downs-Antoine Green level yet, Jones and Paysour are doing a great job stepping up as Carolina’s top two receivers.
If Maye wants to break Minnesota’s strong pass defense, he should consider looking to Jones and Paysour.