PITTSBURGH — Though football was his sport of choice, North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye was surrounded by sports in a family where one of his brothers played college basketball while another played college baseball. So it was no surprise when, during a critical juncture of the game right before halftime, Maye broke out some skills outside of those he learned on the gridiron to help the Tar Heels take control of Saturday night’s tight contest.
On a play that started as a zone-read keeper before being converged on by a couple of hard-charging defenders, Maye uncorked a left-handed wounded duck to a wide open Kobe Paysour for a 7-yard touchdown pass with a minute to go in the second quarter, the standout play in a 41-24 victory for No. 17 North Carolina over Pittsburgh inside Acrisure Stadium on Saturday evening. Maye completed 22-of-30 passes for 296 yards, while Omarion Hampton rushed for 66 yards and a first-quarter touchdown, the fourth time in as many games that he has rushed for at least one score.
Maye’s attempt to score a rushing touchdown on his own on that second-quarter effort was doomed after Panthers defensive end Nate TEmple and defensive back A.J. Woods met Maye on his scramble and got their hands on one of the top quarterback prospects in college football this season. But Maye, whose dad was a former quarterback at UNC while one of his brothers, Luke, was a former First Team All-ACC forward in Chapel Hill, tapped into his basketball skills reservoir, shot-putting a pass into the end zone that found Paysour six yards deep in the end zone to give the Tar Heels a 28-17 lead right before the half.
Immediately after the score, Maye looked at his left hand as if he was in disbelief of his improv skills. His coach was genuinely awed.
“I think I [told him] that may be the coolest play I’ve seen in college football,” said Tar Heels coach Mack Brown, who turned 72 last month and is in his 35th season as a head coach in college football. “And I’ve seen a lot of plays.”
North Carolina improved to 4-0, the first time the Tar Heels have won their first four games in season since 1997, the last year of Brown’s first tenure as head coach in Chapel Hill. That team ended the season 11-1 and ranked fourth in the final Associated Press poll.
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday evening’s contest, with all photos taken by DC-area photographer Phillip Peters. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 20 pictures in total.