UNC offensive keys to the game vs Georgia State

·5 min read

After a 2-0 start to the 2022 season, the UNC football program heads on the road once again, this time traveling to Georgia State.

After a high-scoring affair against Appalachian State in week one, the Tar Heels have now put up 56 points and 63 points in back-to-back weeks.

Quarterback Drake Maye leads the nation in passing yards (646) and touchdowns (9). He also has yet to throw an interception.

This week, however, UNC head coach Mack Brown said his offensive unit wasn’t ‘as sharp’ as usual.

With a matchup against Georgia State on the docket, here are the keys to the game for the North Carolina offense this Saturday.

Can the UNC offense stay sharp?

Aug 27, 2022; Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA;North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) throws a pass against the Florida A&M Rattlers during the second half at Kenan Memorial Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports

As noted above, Mack Brown hasn’t been super pleased with his offense in practice this week.

Coming off of two straight weeks of stellar performances, can the Tar Heels offense keep up its great showing?

Despite the loss, Georgia State was up 14-12 midway through the third quarter against South Carolina in week one, so this is no cupcake for the Tar Heels. The Panthers gave up just two touchdowns all game — with the other scores coming on field goals or special teams for South Carolina.

The Panthers held Spencer Rattler to just 227 yards of passing and forced two interceptions.

Drake Maye has been hot for UNC, but he will need to continue his good play on Saturday.

Continued protection from the offensive line

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels offensive lineman Bo Burkes (79) blocks Appalachian State Mountaineers defensive lineman DeAndre Dingle-Prince (50) during the second half at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

The Georgia State defense can bring pressure and it showed in its season-opener against South Carolina.

Its defensive unit had seven tackles for loss, six quarterback hurries and three sacks. Not only does the front seven contribute, as it’s part of the defensive scheme to bring cornerbacks off of the edge as well.

While the Tar Heel offensive line has been ‘okay’ so far this year, it will be an important game for the unit.

Maye has been sacked just three times this season, but a lot of that has to do with his ability to move around in the pocket and escape pressure with his running ability.

Six different players for the Panthers were credited with a tackle for loss last week, so the UNC line will have to make sure it’s up for the challenge on Saturday.

Get the ball out of Drake Maye's hands quickly

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Drake Maye (10) keeps the ball for a run against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the first quarter at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

As mentioned, Georgia State has a well-rounded group of pass rushers that come from numerous positions, including defensive back.

One of the most effective players in stopping plays for negative yards is cornerback Quavian White who had one sack and two tackles for loss in the opener.

In addition, the Panthers top-two pass rushers come from the linebacker position — in Blake Carroll and Shamar McCollum. That duo combined for 1.5 sacks and 2.5 tackles for loss in addition to 10 tackles.

As they’ve done so much this season already, moving Maye around will be key, but also getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Utilizing the tight ends, which has been a major priority this year, has been effective so continue to do that and take advantage of part of the middle of the field which should be more open with the pass rushing abilities of the linebackers for the Panthers.

UNC’s tight end trio has 14 catches for 208 yards so far this season, so I expect much of the same to be the case on Saturday.

Use the pass to set up the run

Sep 3, 2022; Boone, North Carolina, USA; North Carolina Tar Heels offensive lineman William Barnes (76) pats running back Omarion Hampton (28) on the helmet after his score against the Appalachian State Mountaineers during the second half at Kidd Brewer Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

While Drake Maye has been spectacular this season, the UNC rushing attack is the most critical part of the future success of this team.

The Tar Heels have been pass heavy and large parts of that is due to the inability for defenses to stop Maye through the air, but a time will come when that won’t be the case.

UNC’s leading rusher is Maye as well but the running back room has shown flashes. The four running backs with at least eight carries on the season have all averaged over 5.4 yards per carry, with three averaging over 8.0 yards a touch.

[autotag]Omarion Hampton[/autotag] leads that group with 22 carries for 118 yards and three touchdowns. He’s been the lead back, out-carrying the other backs by 12 touches.

If the Tar Heels can show a good ability to run the ball and break a few off to begin, it will take pressure off of the offensive line and most likely see the Panthers pass rush slow down a bit. Thus, giving Maye even more time to carve up the defense.

While Maye may not be phased by the pass rush, he certainly will be able to put up big numbers if he has more time to throw and a lack of pass rush in his face.

Look for the rushing attack to be a significant part on Saturday’s game.

Story originally appeared on Tarheels Wire