Maye’s late magic not enough as UNC loses heartbreaker to Pack

By R.L. Bynum

CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina has gone from reaching for the stars to looking mediocre in two weeks, with numerous questions and few answers.

Drake Maye still found some magic late, just not enough as N.C. State pulled out a 30–27 double-overtime victory Friday over No. 18 North Carolina.

After a pair of frustrating losses, the Wolfpack (8–4, 4–4 ACC) got its second consecutive victory over the Tar Heels (9–3, 6–2), who can only hope for a better effort in Charlotte next weekend against No. 7 Clemson in the ACC championship game.

“Maybe the best defense we’ve played this year,” UNC coach Mack Brown said. “Our guys kept fighting; our coaches kept working, trying to find things to do.”

Maye has endured the first struggles of his young career. He had gone eight consecutive quarters without generating a touchdown before he ran for a touchdown and threw for another in the fourth quarter to force overtime.

“I’ve got to do a better job to close the game out,” said Maye, who was 29 of 49 for 233 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

After so many weeks of pulling out close games, the Tar Heels have come up one play short for the second consecutive week. Carolina sophomore kicker Noah Burnette missed a 35-yard field-goal attempt in the second overtime to end the game.

That came after he and State kicker Christopher Dunn booted field goals in the first overtime and Dunn hit from 21 yards out to start the second overtime.

“It came down to a play or two every game,” said Brown, whose team was one Josh Downs catch away from beating Georgia Tech six days earlier. “We made the plays in all the others except Notre Dame, and every other game’s came down to the last play. We made the plays before and we haven’t the last two weeks.”

Maye tried to console Burnette after the kick went wide right.

“I told him, I said, ‘things happen and keep your head up,’ ” Maye said. “ ‘We put you in a tough spot when we didn’t get the first down.’ That’s a lot of pressure. They call timeout; they try to ice him. That’s a tough spot for a first-year kicker.”

Maye tied it by speeding through the blitzing Pack for a 14-yard touchdown with 7:53 left. But State’s Tanner Ingle intercepted Maye’s tipped pass on the next drive, leading to a 26-yard touchdown pass from Pack quarterback Ben Finley to Devin Carter three plays later.

Maye sent the game to overtime by connecting with Antoine Green on a 4-yard touchdown pass as time expired.

“Guys are disappointed. Guys are mad. Guys are pissed off,” said linebacker Cedric Gray, who led the team with eight tackles. “You can see it on everybody’s faces. Just kind of quiet. Guys are definitely feeling the pain from this loss for sure.”

N.C. State gave Maye little time to throw and prevented the rushing yards he gained most of the season by plugging the holes in the line until the fourth quarter. 

Who knows what Maye could have done if he had the kind of time in the pocket UNC’s defense gave Finley, who was 27 of 40 for 271 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions?

Downs, who still didn’t look like he was 100% healthy, only had six catches on 13 targets for 51 yards.

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“He’s a really young player who has had an incredible year,” Brown said of Maye. “I thought he grew in the second half and had a chance to win. He was just inches away from hitting Josh to win the game. But you come back with two seconds left with that kind of pressure — he’s really a special player.”

After UNC went three-and-out on the opening possession, N.C. State needed three plays to go 67 yards for Jack Chambers’ two-yard touchdown run. That came on the next play after Finley connected on a 52-yard scoring play. It was the third time the Wolfpack scored on its first drive all season.

Carolina had to settle for a 36-yard Burnette field goal after receivers dropped a couple of passes on a 62-yard drive that stalled after 15 plays. That came after the Tar Heels went three-and-out on their first two drives.

State made it 14–3 when Finley found Terrell Timmons in the end zone on a 28-yard touchdown pass.

Elijah Green finally got UNC into the end zone with 5:03 left in the first half when he sped through the left side of the line for a nine-yard scoring run to cut State’s lead to 14–10, two plays after Antoine Green’s 18-yard reception.

Don Chapman forced Chambers to fumble, and Gray snagged it at the UNC 11. But UNC’s fifth three-and-out of the first half gave State another chance, and then Dunn booted a 29-yard field goal as time expired to give State a 17–10 halftime lead.

After another UNC drive stalled at the State 10, Burnette missed a 27-yard field goal attempt.

The third quarter was scoreless before the tension-filled fourth quarter.

NOTES — UNC faces No. 7 Clemson at 8 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 3, in Charlotte (ABC) in the ACC championship game. The Tigers (10–1) play host to rival South Carolina at noon Saturday (ABC), looking for their third consecutive victory after losing 35–13 at Notre Dame. … In the fourth quarter, Maye broke the single-season UNC passing-yards record with 3,848 yards. … Carolina’s five three-and-outs tied a season-high, matching the total at Georgia State. … UNC cornerback Tony Grimes missed the game with an upper-body injury, safety Cam’Ron Kelly suffered a game-ending lower-body injury in the second quarter and cornerback Storm Duck left in the second half with a lower-body injury. … Finley became the fourth quarterback to start for N.C. State this season. … Kenan Stadium press box seats were reserved for the Holiday Bowl, Cheez-It Bowl (2), Orange Bowl (2), Senior Bowl, Shrine Bowl, Gator Bowl, the Giants, Browns, Commanders, BC Lions, Titans and Steelers. It was the fullest the press box had been since before the pandemic. … This was the seventh time in the last 10 meetings that the road team has won the UNC-State game. … State cut its deficit in the series to 68–38–6, with Brown falling to 7–9 overall against the Wolfpack and 7–7 against State as UNC’s coach. … State is 14–10 in the series since 2000. … State coach Dave Doeren evened his record against UNC to 5–5.

N.C. State 30, No. 18 UNC 27, 2 OTs


DateMonth/dayTime/scoreLocationOpponent
(current rank)
TV/
record
August
27SaturdayW, 56–24HomeFlorida A&M1–0
September
3SaturdayW, 63–61BooneAppalachian State2–0
10SaturdayW, 35–28AtlantaGeorgia State 3–0
24SaturdayL, 45–32HomeNo. 19
Notre Dame
3–1
October
1SaturdayW, 41–10HomeVirginia Tech 4–1, 1–0 ACC
8SaturdayW, 27–24Miami
Gardens, Fla.
Miami 5–1, 2–0 ACC
15SaturdayW, 38–35DurhamDuke6–1, 3–0 ACC
29SaturdayW, 42–24HomePittsburgh7–1, 4–0 ACC
November
5SaturdayW, 31–28CharlottesvilleVirginia8–1, 5–0 ACC
12SaturdayW, 36–34Winston-SalemWake Forest 9–1, 6–0 ACC
19SaturdayL, 21–17HomeGeorgia Tech 9–2, 6–1 ACC
25FridayL, 30–27,
2 OTs
HomeNo. 25 N.C. State 9–3, 6–2 ACC
DecemberACC championship
3SaturdayL, 39–10CharlotteNo. 10 Clemson9–4
Holiday Bowl
28WednesdayL, 28–27San DiegoNo. 15 Oregon9–5

Photo via @GoHeels

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