Gophers can't stop Drake Maye in 31-13 loss at North Carolina, fall to 2-1

Drake Maye was on full display Saturday as the University of Minnesota football team suffered its first loss of the season, 31-13 at North Carolina, to drop to 2-1.

The Gophers are now 19-2 in non-conference play under P.J. Fleck, and he has yet to beat a ranked opponent on the road in six-plus seasons. Maye is one of the top quarterbacks in college football and a projected top-five pick in next April’s NFL Draft, and he showed why on Saturday.

Maye was 29-of-40 passing for 414 yards and two touchdowns, and scrambled 13 times for 34 yards. The Gophers did get two interceptions off Maye from Jack Henderson, and UNC transfer Chris Collins. Maye’s favorite receiver was Nate McCollum, who had 15 catches for 165 yards and a touchdown. He had 11 of those catches for 130 yards and a score in the first half.

"Their quarterback looked like a top-five quarterback. That’s what they look like," Fleck said after the loss.

The Gophers trailed 21-10 at half after a slew of mistakes, and could only manage a field goal in the second half.

Maye’s first touchdown of the day went for 46 yards to McCollum, who beat Aidan Gousby on the play. Maye set up the second touchdown of the day, hitting Kamari Morales for 55 yards on a blown coverage down to the 1-yard lead. At least half of Minnesota’s defense wasn’t aligned on the play, and Morales was uncovered. Omarion Hampton finished the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run and 14-0 Tar Heels lead.

"That’s inexcusable, you can put that one on me. I should’ve gone down there and called timeout. I didn’t get to the official fast enough, that one is on me," Fleck said.

North Carolina extended its lead to 21-3 as Maye hit Bryson Nesbit, who beat Maverick Baranowski on a double move, for a 19-yard touchdown with 2:23 left in the first half. Taylor’s touchdown with 30 seconds left in the half cut Minnesota’s deficit to 21-10. 

Athan Kaliakmanis had a rough day for the Gophers, finishing 11-of-29 for 133 yards and an interception. Darius Taylor had 22 caries for 138 yards, and Minnesota’s lone touchdown. Kaliakmanis left the game briefly in the third quarter with cramps, and Cole Kramer threw an interception in the end zone, trying to hit Daniel Jackson.

"They’re a very good football team. I did not feel like we played our best football at all. We had plenty of opportunities, people open all over down the field and we had dropped balls, tipped balls, balls that were inaccurate. Missed the explosive plays, and we were still in the game," Fleck said. "These guys just keep fighting, scratching, clawing. There’s going to be some bumps, some highs and lows. We’ve got to go out there and gain that experience and find a way to get it done."

The Gophers came into the game ranked in the top-10 in the country defensively. Maye dominated as the Tar Heels piled up 519 yards and 12-of-17 on third down. Minnesota was just 3-of-12.

"Most of those missed opportunities were my fault. Just not executing, most of the things that were called were all there. I failed to execute, that’s on me. That was probably the worst game I’ve ever played. I let my teammates down," Kailiakmanis said. "I feel like everybody showed up today but me. I didn’t show up, that’s the bottom line."

The Gophers resume Big Ten play at Northwestern next Saturday.