The Day After: North Carolina, Coastal Champions

Jason Staples joins host Tommy Ashley on Inside Carolina’s The Day After podcast to break North Carolina’s two-point win at Wake Forest on Saturday night. Drake Maye put on another Heisman-worthy show and Josh Downs was once again unstoppable as the Heels secured the ACC Coastal Championship. Cam Kelly’s interception set up Noah Burnette’s game-winning field goal, and Tar Heel’s defense once again made enough plays in the end.

If anything, North Carolina football is exciting. How one defines exciting is up for debate, but the Carolina defense does its part each week in pushing these games to the brink of insanity. Staples and Ashley open the show, discussing Gene Chizik’s group and breaking down the highs and lows on all three layers of defense.

Cam Kelly’s timely interception was a microcosm of the season so far, as Kelly struggled for most of the night navigating Wake’s slow net and his group of NFL receivers. But with the game at stake and a defensive stop the only way to give Drake Maye and the offense a chance, Kelly picked out Sam Hartman and nearly scored. It was Kelly’s third Hartman interception in two games.

The North Carolina defensive line was having a day — and not a good day. But like Kelly, he had just enough plays to achieve victory. The fourth down stop late, forcing Hartman to climb and land just short of the mark, saved the day for the Heels.

After the break, the weekly Drake Maye portion of the program takes the stage as Staples breaks down what Maye did with the game on the redshirt freshman’s shoulders on Saturday night. Maye wasn’t perfect, Staples says, but his toughness and refusal to let go of the mentality continue to shine.

Then there are those Heisman Trophy-worthy numbers – 448 yards passing, 71 yards rushing. Four touchdowns. And as Staples puts it, there are so many opportunities for Maye to improve. The pairing with Josh Downs — Staples points to the season’s stats for Downs in the last three games alone — is unmatched in the college game. But it’s football’s distribution that takes Maye to another level. Nine Carolina receivers caught passes against Wake, including nine from the tight end position.

This leaves North Carolina as the ACC Coastal Champion with two regular season games remaining. As Staples explains, there are many angles of motivation for Mack Brown’s teams. Georgia Tech embarrassed Carolina last season. NC State comes after Kenan in the last regular season game and then there’s Clemson, the beast of the hill in the ACC.

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