NORTH CAROLINA, USA — Drake Maye threw for a season-high 414 yards to go with two touchdowns, Nate McCollum flirted with a single-game UNC receiving record and No. 20 North Carolina pushed past Minnesota 31-13 on Saturday.
Maye overcame two interceptions and ultimately provided the only reliable source of offense for the Tar Heels (3-0), who were unable to run the ball against one of the nation's top defenses.
McCollum, in his first year at UNC after transferring from Georgia Tech, had missed the season opener with an injury and had just one catch in his debut last week. But he was the clear top target on Saturday, going for 15 catches and 165 yards with a 46-yard contested scoring catch in the first quarter.
He ended up falling one catch shy of tying the Tar Heels' single-game record.
Omarion Hampton and British Brooks each ran for short TDs, with Brooks' 1-yard punch-in clinching this one by pushing UNC to a 31-13 lead at the 5-minute mark of the fourth quarter.
Darius Taylor ran for 138 yards and a touchdown shortly before halftime to lead Minnesota (2-1), but the Gophers generated little else beyond the dynamic running from the true freshman. Athan Kaliakmanis threw for just 133 yards on 11-for-29 passing, and that played a big role in Minnesota converting just 3 of 12 third downs.
Minnesota: The Gophers had gone 19-1 against nonconference foes under P.J. Fleck, and the defense had led this year's effort by entering this game ranked in the top 10 nationally in total defense (223.5 yards) and scoring defense (8.0). That unit smothered UNC's most of the day (105 yards allowed, 2.8 yards per carry) but struggled to stop Maye from pushing the ball downfield or stopping McCollum from finding space at the other end of those throws.
UNC: Maye finally had a big passing game to start his season of high expectations, but this was as much about McCollum's performance, too. The Tar Heels have needed to find a new top target with Josh Downs in the NFL. That was expected to be Kent State transfer Devontez Walker, but he has been unable to receive a waiver to play immediately and can only watch from the sidelines. On Saturday it was McCollum — and now his chance to keep it.
North Carolina opened the year at No. 21, hopped up to No. 17 after opening with a win against South Carolina then slid to No. 20 after last week's double-overtime win against Appalachian State.
A win would've given Minnesota the chance to crack the AP Top 25 after spending one week at No. 21 last September.
Minnesota: The Gophers return to the Big Ten looking for a 2-0 start in league play when they visit Northwestern next Saturday.
UNC: The Tar Heels open Atlantic Coast Conference play by visiting Pittsburgh next Saturday night.
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