No. 12 North Carolina aims to keep its unbeaten record intact on Saturday when it opposes No. 25 Miami in Chapel Hill, N.C.
The Hurricanes (4-1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) are still licking the wounds from their first loss of the season, an arguably self-inflicted defeat at home to Georgia Tech.
Miami led 20-17 and could have knelt on the ball to end the game on a third-and-10 play, as there was just 33 seconds left and the Yellow Jackets had no timeouts remaining, but instead the Hurricanes ran the ball and fumbled it. Moments later, Georgia Tech’s Haynes King tossed the game-winning touchdown pass.
Second-year Miami coach Mario Cristobal took the blame for the blunder during a press conference this week.
“I made the wrong call,” Cristobal said. “I take full ownership in not taking a knee and giving them the opportunity to have a couple extra plays and preventing us from sealing the win.”
He added: “The guys are very eager to get back to work and prepare for this weekend’s opportunity.”
What awaits Miami is its toughest on-paper opponent yet, with the Tar Heels (5-0, 2-0 ACC) led by a Heisman Trophy candidate at quarterback.
North Carolina’s Drake Maye showed off his talent again last weekend in a 40-7 home victory over Syracuse, completing 33 of 47 passes for 442 yards and three touchdowns while also rushing for 55 yards and a score. Maye is the conductor of an offense that scores an average of 36.6 points per game, tied for 18th best in the FBS.
And Maye and the Tar Heels offense just got stronger, as Devontez “Tez” Walker finally made his North Carolina debut last weekend after receiving an eligibility waiver from the NCAA. Maye and Walker seemingly had chemistry right away as the wideout hauled in six catches for 43 yards. Last season at Kent State, Walker tied for the Mid-American Conference lead in receiving touchdowns with 11.
Walker, a native of Charlotte, transferred to North Carolina to be closer to his ailing grandmother.
“It’s heartwarming that she finally got to see me play,” Walker said. “I just felt blessed to be out there.”
As for Miami, despite an inconsistent offensive performance last week, the unit can be potent behind a quarterback who is a proven playmaker. Tyler Van Dyke leads the ACC in completion percentage with 72.6 percent of his throws landing in the mitts of his receivers. Van Dyke also has more passing touchdowns than Maye (12 to eight).
Before the loss to Georgia Tech, Miami scored at least 38 points in each of its first four games.
“They’re the most talented team that we’ve played to this point,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “They’ve got speed all over the place, and we’ll have our hands full this weekend.”
North Carolina is 13-11 against Miami and has won four straight games in the series. The Hurricanes haven’t won in Chapel Hill since 2017.