For just the fourth time in the history of the program, Tar Heel fans will get the opportunity to see a 5-0 team in Chapel Hill when the team takes on the Miami Hurricanes in Kenan Stadium this Saturday. They will enter that matchup off of one of the program's biggest blowout victories in recent memory, a 40-7 win over the Syracuse Orange. As the team prepares for the first top 25 matchup in Kenan Stadium since 2020, let’s look at who is trending up and trending down.
Maye will enter the game against the Hurricanes off of one of the best performances of his career. The sophomore quarterback put himself back in the Heisman Trophy race by throwing for 442 yards and three touchdowns and running for 55 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries. People were worried about the turnovers at the start of the season for Maye, but he seems to have settled in and is now putting up better numbers than he did last year.
McCollum continued to show why the staff made it a point to go out and get him from the transfer portal this offseason. He led the Tar Heels in receiving on Saturday, catching seven of his nine targets for 135 yards and a touchdown. McCollum helped set the tone early on, catching five of the first eleven passes completed by Maye, all of which came on the first three drives of the game.
⇧Interior Defensive Line
The interior of the defensive line may have had its best performance of the last year and a half on Saturday. Myles Murphy (5 ttkl, 1.0 TFL) put together his best performance since 2021 and Travis Shaw (3 ttkl) had his most complete game at the college level. Even Kedrick Bingley-Jones (1 QB pressure) looked good in his most important snaps of his career that he has played so far in his career. Expecting this type of production from this group every week is probably asking too much, but the hope is that they can step up in the important game moving forward.
Paysour had been quiet the prior two weeks, but he made what might be the catch of the season for the Tar Heels as part of his first 100-yard receiving game. His third and final catch of the day came on a ball that was thrown behind him that he was somehow able to tap up in the air to himself and race away from the defense for a 77-yard score. Paysour’s role hasn’t been as concrete since McCollum’s return from the early season injury, but he continues to make impacts anytime he gets the opportunity.
Burnette continued his hot streak on Saturday with what might be the best game of his career. He not only hit all four of his extra points but nailed a career-high four field goals. Since taking over as the team’s full-time kicker, he has hit all seven of his field goal attempts, including three straight from 40 to begin his season. For the first time in a while, it feels like the team has a kicker they trust.
Nesbit has had an up-and-down season in terms of his receiving production and Saturday may have been his best performance of the season. He caught five passes, which tied a career-high, for 79 yards and a touchdown. With all of the receiving targets that offense has right now, it’s hard to make a consistent impact from week to week, but Nesbit continues to make plays when Maye looks for him.
Huzzie continues to show every he takes the field how smart the Tar Heels were for going after him in the transfer portal. He allowed just one of his three targets to be caught for seven yards and registered his third interception of the season and a pass breakup on the two that weren’t caught. Huzzie has simply been phenomenal in the first five games of the season, allowing just 40.0% of his targets to be caught and his 12.6 QB rating against.
Hampton had his most productive day since the Appalachian State game in this one. He finished the day with 103 total yards on 18 touches, including 78 on the ground, the most since Week 2. Hampton was another big tone-setter for the team, as well, running for 50 yards in the first quarter alone.
Lampkin returned to action after missing the last two games and his effect was felt. Pro Football Focus graded him as the team’s best run blocker and pass protector on Saturday and it is no coincidence that the team easily ran for the most rushing yards since the last game that he played in. Lampkin is another gem that the staff found in the portal this offseason and has completely changed the mindset of an entire position room.
Walker saw his first action on Saturday and was absolutely outstanding considering he only had two days to prepare for the game. He was second on the team in targets with eight and he caught six of those for 43 yards. While he didn’t have the big play over the top, there was one shot early in the game that Maye missed that would have been a big play and resulted in a touchdown. In the latest depth chart that was released earlier today, Walker was listed as a starter, so his impact should only grow moving forward.
Chapman continued what has been a career year for him so far with another fantastic performance on Saturday afternoon. He was very active in the running game again, racking up five total tackles, and he had another good day in coverage where he only allowed one catch for one yard.
This special teams unit just continues to be a disappointment outside of the place-kicking game. Saturday, it was the punting unit that struggled and it may have cost them a key member. The team’s first punt of the day on the second drive was blocked, but a heads up play by punter Ben Kiernan resulted in a first down that allowed the drive to keep going and avoided an important turning point in the game. However, Kiernan took a crushing blow from two defenders and suffered a lower body injury that has him questionable for the Miami game and possibly longer. If he can’t play, that would be a tough loss for a Tar Heel team that has only had three balls punted by players other than Kiernan since Mack Brown returned to the sidelines in 2019.