UNC vs. Florida A&M: Winners, Losers and Honorable Mentions

When it’s been 240 days since you’ve seen the football team on the pitch, the tendency is going to be to read A LOT in what you saw on Saturday. It also comes into play when you have a new quarterback, new defensive coordinators, new defensive scheme, and new players all over the field.

Treat yourself: breathe.

On Saturday, the Tar Heels opened the 2022 season in questioning Week 0 by defeating an understaffed Florida A&M team. There’s no doubt Friday’s “will/won’t they” drama played a role in what we saw on Saturday, add that with the game’s relatively low stakes and easy to scalding on some of the …lapses we saw. Make no mistake, if the team plays with the same effort – at least on the defensive end of the ball – this Saturday in Boone, they will be 1-1 in Atlanta. Also, even against an overwhelmed defense, we saw a lot to like on offense.

The caution here is that global generalizations should wait until this time next week. Even then, it will be until October before the Tar Heels play an ACC game and one would expect improvement by then. With all those caveats, let’s look at who deserves a shoutout, who hasn’t exactly started their season, and other points worth highlighting.


Drake May: Yeah, this one is obvious isn’t it? As Akil said yesterday, when you go 29-37 for 294 passing yards, five scores and rush for 55 yards, you’ll turn heads. Maye came out as a starter after being named by Mack Brown in a supposedly close competition with Jacolby Criswell. I say supposedly because we weren’t in training and we didn’t see what the coaches saw, but one thing that Mack made clear this week was that he wasn’t going to make a “every two drives” agreement with quarterbacks. If a quarterback took the reins, he was going to ride it. Maye’s first series was a three-and-out, but mostly because his pass on third down was armed with an alligator. His second series was about to meet a similar fate, instead Maye took control:

There was no looking back after that “I say @*$ & you Jobu, I’m doing it myself” moment. The very next play was the touchdown pass to Komari Morales, and the next two drives after that would end with touchdowns from Maye. Then, after the defense finally returned the ball, the Heels were able to end the half with another score.

There’s no doubt that FAMU’s defense was exhausted by the end as practices got easier, but Drake just didn’t give Mack Brown a reason to bring Criswell into the game, especially since the defense couldn’t really give the team a lead where you would feel like the game was totally out of control. We’ll see how this momentum carries through to next week when the level of competition escalates significantly.

Echoes of Power: Before castigating the defense, let’s take a second to appreciate Charlotte’s second play. Echols was seemingly everywhere on Saturday, leading the team in total tackles with ten, including two for loss and grabbing a sack from the quarterback in the process, one of only three on the night for the team. Nine, count them, NINE of the tackles were solo tackles. He finished all of 2021 with 25 tackles, so in one game he’s already eclipsed a third of his stats from last year. Clearly he was identified as a workhorse up front, and he quickly showed he was going to be a problem for the rest of the season for Carolina’s opponents. On a night when the high school had its issues and Florida A&M changed it with a dual-threat quarterback the Tar Heels didn’t explore against, Echols stood out as someone who was capable of obtain a constant pressure in the pocket. To say the least, he was the biggest bright spot of an uncertain night for the defense.

The 100 Walk: Sorry, that’s what you get when a band nerd writes this post. That said, it’s clear that the FAMU Marching 100 was a major attraction for the match, as for the first time in a long time the stands were still full at half-time. If you weren’t lucky enough to be there to see the show, here’s what you missed:

The experience was clearly what people were hoping for when they came to see it, and the sheer power of the Marching 100 was awe-inspiring. I also know from experience that the Marching Tar Heels and Marching 100 only had a few workouts together to reduce this, which makes the combined performance remarkable. The hype around them was real, and outside of half-time they made their presence known in the stands with an incredible wall of sound to hear. I felt privileged to sit there and hear it, and also jealous that I didn’t have that kind of experience when I was in college.


Jacobly Criswell: To say Criswell was wronged on Saturday is an understatement. The thing is, it takes a bit of context. Brown had made it clear that if a quarterback took control, the team would roll with him, and Maye certainly did. Add to that the fact that the game was still a fourth quarter game, and you have a recipe that saw Criswell sit on the sidelines until the very end. The only question I would have is the drive that started with about nine minutes left in the fourth. FAMU had run out of gas, the Tar Heels were now comfortably ahead, and all Drake Maye did was go in and put out several times for another score. You could absolutely say it’s time to put Criswell in a real streak and then his second streak would be what we saw at the end where Brown naturally didn’t want anyone getting hurt when he had already lost Tony Grimes and saw Josh Downs hobble after his touchdown catch.

On the plus side, if Criswell is to be used next week against Appalachian State, there will be very limited footage of what he can do. You would also assume that at this point there is no point in transferring Criswell. He’s got no free years left, so might as well enjoy the training shots he’ll get in Chapel Hill knowing that if Maye stumbles – and it’s hard to believe that at some point he won’t – he will get a shot. He would understandably be frustrated after Saturday, but we’ll see if that was an aberration or if Criswell was completely ignored.

Gene Chizik: Yes, Jeremy Mousa has experience at an SEC-level school and was, supposedly, not the quarterback the Tar Heels prepared for, but allowed a 28-39 performance for 279 yards , two touchdowns, a single interception and just three sacks against an exhausted FCS opponent is not a good look for the new man in charge of defense. FAMU only posted a net gain of 56 rushing yards, but that was less because of Carolina’s rush-stopping prowess and mostly because FAMU opted for the quick short passes the Tar Heels continually had to hard to stop. It finally put them to sleep enough that Jeremy Moussa could drop several pennies, impressing in difficult circumstances.

The big question, and one that gets me thinking about too much reading: How much was Saturday night just to master the basics and not show too much against an overmatched opponent? The defense had to be aware that FAMU only had six players for the offensive line – which probably required their quick passing strategy as well – and that the more nature of playing an FCS opponent could naturally lead to some complacency that would be tough to shake especially when the offense doesn’t really force you to buckle down due to the quality of their play. out of breath. Respect to them, especially for a team that has reported serious issues in their own schedule, but hopefully this fight leads to some sharp eyes and ears this week as this defense prepares to head towards Boone. App State is going to be a lot harder.

Secondary: The first quarter wasn’t even over and Tony Grimes was helped off the field with an “upper body injury”, exhausting an already thin secondary. The defensive issues the Tar Heels faced certainly weren’t due to a man leaving, but that surely didn’t help, and it amplified just how thin the margin that side of the ball operated on was. . Hopefully Grimes is kept out as a precaution, but the absence was noticeable, especially after playing all 25 games in his career so far. There is no doubt that his speed and experience would have helped dampen some of FAMU’s strategy, and the fact that the Tar Heels were slow to react was troubling. If his injury is something serious that will keep him out of the field for a while…let’s just say the offense will have to play a lot more like they did on Saturday.

Honorable mentions

The competition for Carolina’s primary running back had clear leaders after Saturday, as Omarion Hampton shone the brightest, rushing for a team-record 101 yards, two touchdowns, and seemed like he was ready to make some noise immediately. George Pettaway (51 yards, 1 TD) and green elie (72 yards) also had some notable moments. It will be interesting to see if DJ Jones (10 yards on five attempts) starts again next weekend or if Hampton wins the right to go out first…Josh Downs was Josh Downs, 78 receiving yards, two scores and really scoring stuff. His latest score, however, saw him immediately hobble off the pitch, giving everyone heart palpitations. The good news is that he never went to the locker room and just said that the ice on his knee was a precautionary measure… What about the love for the tight ends? Bryson Nesbit and Kamari Morales both were rattled by a touchdown pass from Maye, and any suspicion that tight ends were more involved given how thin the Tar Heels were at receiver were confirmed. Overall, ten different players caught passes from Maye, and seven of them eclipsed double-digit yards on receptions…Also a shout out to storm duck who notched the only interception for the team, having to play without Grimes. He looks healthy and is looking to get many important assignments for the rest of the year.

One week less, there are eleven weeks left in the regular season. Next, a trip to Boone at noon as the Tar Heels take on one of the most hostile road crowds of the season in the state of Appalachia, if not the most hostile. That should be a better gauge of what to expect for the rest of the 2022 season.