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Who won UNC vs South Carolina football game in Charlotte?


North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton (28) celebrates after scoring on a one yard run to give the Tar Heels a 24-14 lead over South Carolina in the third quarter on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

North Carolina’s Omarion Hampton (28) celebrates after scoring on a one yard run to give the Tar Heels a 24-14 lead over South Carolina in the third quarter on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.

rwillett@newsobserver.com

Drake Maye made sure the Battle of the Carolinas went North Carolina’s way on Saturday night.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback, playing in his hometown, fired a pair of touchdown passes as No. 21 North Carolina beat South Carolina 31-17 at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

Running back British Brooks paced the UNC (1-0) running game with 103 yards on 15 carries.

The UNC defense sacked South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler nine times.

Here are three takeaways for UNC after its win:

Dreamy Drake Maye

That Heisman Trophy campaign received a healthy boost with the UNC redshirt sophomore’s nationally televised performance against South Carolina.

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) breaks away from South Carolina’s Stone Blanton (52) in the second quarter on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) breaks away from South Carolina’s Stone Blanton (52) in the second quarter on Saturday September 2, 2023 at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

Maye completed 24 of 32 passes for 269 yards with two touchdown passes. That 75% completion rate against an SEC defense will certainly get the nation’s attention. His two interceptions, both coming after the Tar Heels had built a 31-14 lead, were his only blemishes.

Maye helped UNC convert 8 of 13 third downs as the Tar Heels only punted twice (both in the fourth quarter).

UNC receiver depth is just fine

The Tar Heels played South Carolina without the two players expected to be their top receivers. That didn’t bother Maye one bit as he completed passes to nine different players.

Kent State transfer Tez Walker remains ineligible since the NCAA considers him a two-time transfer and hasn’t granted an appeal. Another transfer, Nate McCollum from Georgia Tech, missed the game with an injury.

So Kobe Paysour became Maye’s main target. Targeted on nine of Maye’s passes, the redshirt sophomore caught seven passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.

North Carolina tight end John Copenhaver (81) celebrates a 18-yard touchdown reception with Gavin Blackwell (2) during the second half of UNC’s 31-17 victory over South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.
North Carolina tight end John Copenhaver (81) celebrates a 18-yard touchdown reception with Gavin Blackwell (2) during the second half of UNC’s 31-17 victory over South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

Winning on third downs

A much-maligned unit last season, the Tar Heels’ defense showed plenty of bite to shut down South Carolina.

After allowing an ACC-worst 436.5 yards per game last season, UNC saw South Carolina gain 364 yards as the Tar Heels posted the season-opening win.

South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes just as he is hit by North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray (33) during the first half of UNC’s game against South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.
South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) passes just as he is hit by North Carolina linebacker Cedric Gray (33) during the first half of UNC’s game against South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

A big improvement came on third downs. The Gamecocks converted 4 of 14 third downs (28.5%). Last season, UNC’s opponents were successful on 41.8% of third downs.

It helped that the Tar Heels racked up nine sacks. That’s six more than they had in any game last season.

Florida State transfer Amari Gainer led UNC with two sacks, while linebacker Ced Gray and defensive lineman Beau Atkinson had 1.5 sacks each.

Linebacker Kaimon Rucker had an impressive night for UNC. He recorded eight tackles, including 4.5 tackles for losses with a sack.

North Carolina linebacker Amari Gainer (3) sacks South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the second half of UNC’s 31-17 victory over South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023.
North Carolina linebacker Amari Gainer (3) sacks South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler (7) during the second half of UNC’s 31-17 victory over South Carolina in the Duke’s Mayo Classic at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, N.C., Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Ethan Hyman ehyman@newsobserver.com

This story was originally published September 2, 2023, 7:29 PM.

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Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. In the Associated Press Sports Editors national contest, he’s placed in the top 10 in beat writing in 2019, 2021 and 2022, breaking news in 2019 and explanatory writing in 2018. Previously, Steve worked for The State (Columbia, SC), Herald-Journal (Spartanburg, S.C.), The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.), Charlotte Observer and Hickory (NC) Daily Record covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly. He’s won numerous state-level press association awards. Steve graduated from Illinois State University in 1989.



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