UNC tops South Carolina to open season. Three takeaways from the Tar Heels’ win.

Tribune Content Agency

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Drake Maye made sure the Battle of the Carolinas went North Carolina’s way on Saturday night.

The redshirt sophomore quarterback, playing in his hometown, fired a pair of touchdown passes as No. 21 North Carolina beat South Carolina, 31-17, at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

Running back British Brooks paced the UNC running game with 103 yards on 15 carries.

The UNC defense sacked South Carolina quarterback Spencer Rattler nine times.

Here are three takeaways for UNC after its win:

Dreamy Drake Maye

That Heisman Trophy campaign received a healthy boost with the UNC redshirt sophomore’s nationally televised performance against South Carolina.

Maye completed 24 of 32 passes for 269 yards with two touchdown passes. That 75% completion rate against an SEC defense will certainly get the nation’s attention. His two interceptions, both coming after the Tar Heels had built a 31-14 lead, were his only blemishes.

Maye helped UNC convert 8 of 13 third downs as the Tar Heels punted only twice (both in the fourth quarter).

UNC receiver depth is just fine

The Tar Heels played South Carolina without the two players expected to be their top receivers. That didn’t bother Maye one bit as he completed passes to nine different players.

Kent State transfer Tez Walker remains ineligible since the NCAA considers him a two-time transfer and hasn’t granted an appeal. Another transfer, Nate McCollum from Georgia Tech, missed the game with an injury.

So Kobe Paysour became Maye’s main target. Targeted on nine of Maye’s passes, the redshirt sophomore caught seven passes for 66 yards and a touchdown.

Winning on third downs

A much-maligned unit last season, the Tar Heels’ defense showed plenty of bite to shut down South Carolina.

After allowing an ACC-worst 436.5 yards per game last season, UNC saw South Carolina gain 364 yards as the Tar Heels posted the season-opening win.

A big improvement came on third downs. The Gamecocks converted 4 of 14 third downs (28.5%). Last season, UNC’s opponents were successful on 41.8% of third downs.

It helped that the Tar Heels racked up nine sacks. That’s six more than they had in any game last season.

Florida State transfer Amari Gainer led UNC with two sacks, while linebacker Ced Gray and defensive lineman Beau Atkinson had 1.5 sacks each.

Linebacker Kaimon Rucker had an impressive night for UNC. He recorded eight tackles, including 4.5 tackles for losses with a sack.

Earlier game updates

After Saturday began with College Gameday’s opening show of the college football season, North Carolina and South Carolina clashed a few blocks away at Charlotte’s Bank of America Stadium.

After losing its final four games of last season, the No. 21 Tar Heels broke that losing streak. South Carolina closed last season in strong fashion, beating Tennessee and Clemson on consecutive weekends before losing 45-38 to Notre Dame in the Gator Bowl to finish 8-5, but struggled against UNC.