If this UNC team had a motto, it might be “find a way.” UNC has had to find a way to win tough games on the road all year. This past Saturday night wasn’t any different. UNC went into Winston-Salem and picked up a gritty, hard-fought 36-34 win over the Wake Forest Demon Deacons in a game where the redshirt freshman battled the fifth-year junior at the QB position. Drake Maye dueled throughout the night with Sam Hartman as the defenses just tried to keep up. However, it was the UNC defense that got the one key stop, picking off Hartman in UNC territory to give Maye the opportunity to go score late in the fourth quarter.
Maye drove UNC down the field and gave Noah Burnette a chance to put UNC in front with 2:12 left in the game, which he did. UNC then needed to stop Wake Forest’s high-powered offense from scoring. They forced a fourth down play from the Wake 23, and Sam Hartman threw an incomplete pass. Drake Maye needed one first down to win the game, so he did what he has done all year, use his legs to win ball games. Two runs, 10 yards, and the game was over.
Maye was once again fantastic, throwing for a career-high 448 passing yards on a 63% clip. He had 3 touchdowns to go along with a rushing touchdown as he once again led the team in rushing with 19 carries for 71 yards. His counterpart for Wake also played quite well against the UNC defense, with 320 yards, 4 TDs, 1 INT, and a 58% completion percentage.
Downs had another incredible game when the Heels needed him most. After Antione Green went down with an injury. He produced 11 receptions, 154 yards, and 3 touchdowns. He has become Drake Maye’s favorite target and it’s not even close, the next best receiver had 5 catches. Downs is a red zone nightmare and a route-running technician.
Gene Chizik has been criticized all season for the struggles of the defense, UNC played lockdown defense in the fourth quarter and a lot of credit needs to go to Chizik. Early in the game, UNC stopped Wake on their first two drives. Wake made good adjustments and was able to run up 34 points on the Heels. Then Chizik made his own adjustments and the UNC players turned things around and locked down the Wake offense, getting a pick and two turnovers on downs. The man can clearly coach, and UNC’s defense continues to improve late in the season.
UNC clinches a berth in the ACC title game after their heart stopping, nerve wracking win over Wake. They return to Chapel Hill to play the 4-6 (3-4 ACC) Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets who are coming off a blowout loss to Miami and will surely be hyped to beat the 13th ranked Tar Heels.