SAN DIEGO, Calif. — The North Carolina quarterback has been the biggest surprise to the 2023 season, with the video game numbers he recorded on the gridiron.
Which is why all eyes were on Drake Maye against Oregon’s defense Wednesday night in the Holiday Bowl. Although the Ducks won the game 28-27, Maye showed the country why he was named the ACC Player of the Year. After all, he torched Oregon’s secondary with three touchdown tosses to three different pass catchers in the first half.
The Ducks wound up making adjustments though, and kept Maye and the Tar Heels out of the endzone in the second half. So his solid outing was bittersweet in a way to close out the season. The former four-star prospect broke the school’s single-season record for passing yards, led his team to a 9-1 start and a berth in the ACC Championship Game.
However, North Carolina ended 2022 on a four-game losing streak. Not to mention Maye was operating with a new Offensive Coordinator and had no Josh Downs to throw to against the Ducks. There’s no denying it was a humbling way to end his stellar campaign, so Maye isn’t taking any of his success for granted.
“I think the main thing I learned is trust the process and all the hard work that goes in,” Maye said. “It shows and turns out life lessons outside the relationships for the rest of my life, with guys I love and playing with, them out on the field, and there’s nothing I would trade in the world for that.”
It’s no mystery Maye had to grow up a lot this fall, and had a ton of responsibility on his shoulders. He and went from being a wide-eyed freshman behind center, to performing like a seasoned-veteran in the pocket, The North Carolina native showed leadership beyond his years. Coach Mack Brown has been in awe of Maye’s maturation process. The way the gunslinger commanded the offense, played with grit and toughness, what more can a coach ask for.
“Here’s Drake without an offensive coordinator, and I thought Lonnie Galloway did an outstanding job of he and John Lilly putting an offense together because we have a good offense,” Brown said. “He had an analyst coaching him for
the last month, so he looked real good to me.”
Maye took a couple of licks, but enjoyed playing in a bowl game with his teammates. At the end of the day, North Carolina (9-5) was able to get the young players experience, and Maye got a sneak peak of the weapons in his arsenal next season. The players had to pay attention to detail on such a short notice, but Maye thought they did the best with what they had to work with.
“It was a little bit of a scramble drill sometimes getting in personnel and late in the shot clock, game clock, but that’s the thing,” he said. “You know, that’s what made it fun tonight.”
The North Carolina native has made himself a household name, and unlike other quarterbacks around the country, he’s returning to Chapel Hill. Still, Maye won’t be sneaking up on anyone in 2023 and will have the nation’s attention. Brown is proud of the young man, and believes he’s just scratching the surface of his true potential. The 71-year old coach is just glad to have him on his team and believes he’s an ideal student-athlete on and off the field.
“Drake is an absolutely amazing person, and he is better person than quarterback.”