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No. 20 North Carolina takes care of business in 31-13 win over Big 10 foe Minnesota

No. 20 North Carolina welcomed the Minnesota Golden Gophers to Kenan Stadium on Saturday for the first-ever college football game between the two schools.

The ACC’s Tar Heels game the Big 10’s Golden Gophers a rude welcome.

Here are three takeaways from UNC’s 31-13 win over Minnesota:

Another offensive weapon

The word on wide receiver Nate McCollum all through fall camp was that he was being brought along slowly because of a lower-body injury but should be healthy and ready when the season began.

The transfer from Georgia Tech could be a real weapon, everyone agreed. Just let him get fully healthy and watch him go.

It took a little longer than expected, but McCollum is healthy. He can be a weapon. Against Minnesota, Drake Maye made the Atlanta native a constant target and McCollum constantly produced: 15 catches for 165 yards, both career highs for 5-9, 185-pound wideout.

The Tar Heels’ first TD came when McCollum pulled in a 46-yard throw from Maye in the end zone, outfighting the defensive back for the ball on what could have been an end-zone interception.

Drake Maye did what?

Drake Maye can pass. Drake Maye can run. Drake Maye can also … punt?

Maye had a 414-yard passing day Saturday, the second of his career. He had two TD throws and had two passes picked off, the second by defensive lineman Chris Collins, a transfer from UNC.

In the first quarter, Maye was also called on to punt. He pooched one inside the Minnesota 20, the ball rolling out of bounds at the 13.

Heisman voters probably won’t notice or be impressed, but UNC’s Mack Brown liked it.

Rushing yards hard to find

The Tar Heels’ running game, so productive against South Carolina and Appalachian State, can be slowed down. Minnesota did it for the most part Saturday.

UNC’s Omarion Hampton shredded the App State defense for 234 yards and three TDs a week ago and picked up some national honors and attention. There was little there Saturday as the Gophers’ active defensive front took away that element of the Tar Heels’ offensive game.

Hampton, who had 17 yards on eight carries in the first half, did have a 17-yard run in the fourth quarter — on a swing pass behind the line from Maye that Hampton took up the sideline.

With Maye and the receivers carrying the offensive load against a stacked Minnesota D, the Tar Heels did not need a big day from Hampton and British Brooks, who returned to the lineup and scored in the fourth quarter.

UNC, which had 29 rushing yards through three quarters, finished with 105.

The following were live updates during the game:

Burnette FG gives UNC 24-13 lead

Noah Burnette, handling the UNC placekicking with Ryan Coe out of the lineup, knocked through a 42-yard field goal late in the third quarter for a 24-13 lead.

Drake Maye’s 38-yard pass to Gavin Blackwell was the big play in drive,

Chatman picks off pass in end zone

The Gophers were moving down field when quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis apparently was injured after a third-down run. Cole Kramer came in at QB but had a pass picked off in the end zone by the Heels cornerback Armani Chatman.

Gophers pull within 21-13

Minnesota took the second-half kickoff and put together a drive that ended with Dragan Kesich’s 45-yard field goal. The Gophers reached the UNC 29 before a third-down pass picked up just two yards and led to the field goal, Kesich’s second of the game.

Halftime: UNC 21, Minnesota 10

It has been a lot of Drake Maye and Nate McCollum offensively for the Heels. Maye is 18-of-27 passing for 287 yards, with two TDs and two picks. McCollum, the transfer from Georgia Tech, has 11 catches for 130 yards -- both career highs.

UNC has been able to rush for just 34 yards -- Omarion Hampton has 17 yards on eight carries -- but Maye has produced some big chunk plays. Maye and McCollum hooked up on UNC’s first TD, a 46-yard throw in the first quarter.

Gophers score first TD

The Gophers, trailing 21-3, went 75 yards for their first TD of the game. A pass interference call against UNC gave the Gophers first and goal at the 5, and Darius Taylor scored from the 2 with 30 seconds left in the half.

Quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis had pass completion of 25 and 15 yards in the drive. The PI call against the Tar Heels’ Gio Biggers came on third down at the UNC 12.

Tar Heels move ahead 21-3

Maye shook off an interception to lead an 80-yard TD drive, passing to JJ Jones for 39 yards and then 19 yards to tight end Bryson Nesbit for the score and a 21-3 lead.

It was Maye’s second TD throw of the game. He’s 18 of 23 passing for 287 yards, with two picks.

North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) slides under Minnesota’s Danny Striggow (92) after a gain of six yards in the second quarter on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.
North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye (10) slides under Minnesota’s Danny Striggow (92) after a gain of six yards in the second quarter on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.

Gophers get first points after pick

Maye has made some good throws today but a poor one resulted in a Jack Henderson interception in the second quarter that led to the Gophers’ first points.

Henderson picked off the pass near the left sideline at the UNC and returned 17 yards. The Gophers reached the UNC 5 but was stopped on third down and had Dragan Kesich come in for a 23-yard field goal. UNC 14-3.

Maye goes deep again, sets up TD

Maye found tight end Kamari Morales free behind the Minnesota secondary and fired a 55-yard pass, setting up Omarion Hampton’s 1-yard scoring run with 13:17 left in the second quarter for a 14-0 lead.

Maye, who had a 46-yard TD to McCollum for the first UNC score, has completed nine of his first 11 passes for 167 yards. The long throw to Morales came on third down from the UNC 44.

Hampton’s rushing TD was his sixth of the season..

North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton (28) scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to give the Tar Heels’ a 14-0 lead over Minnesota on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.
North Carolina running back Omarion Hampton (28) scores a touchdown on a 1-yard run in the second quarter to give the Tar Heels’ a 14-0 lead over Minnesota on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.

End of first quarter: UNC leads 7-0

Maye’s 46-yard TD throw to Nate McCollum has given the Heels a 7-0 lead after the first. A Power Echols interception at the UNC 16 stopped a Minnesota drive.

UNC had 112 yards to Minnesota’s 79 in the quarter, converting three of five third-down plays.

Maye passes, runs, punts

After a Power Echols interception at the UNC 16, the Heels picked up two first downs as Maye passed for one and ran for another. The UNC drive stalled after Maye was sacked and the QB was used on a punt, the first of his career. The punt was good for 36 yards to the Minnesota 13.

Maye to McCollum for six

For those wondering if UNC has enough deep threats at receiver, Nate McCollum provided an answer in the first quarter, hauling in a 46-yard TD pass from Drake Maye.

The Heels converted a fourth-down play on a Maye sneak after Maye took a savage hit along the sideline on third down. Two plays later, on third-and-12, Maye was flushed out the pocket, rolled right and hit McCollum in stride, McCollum outfighting the safety for the ball in the end zone.

Maye’s TD pass was the 42nd of his career, moves him ahead of Mitch Trubisky on the UNC list.

North Carolina’s Nate McCollum (6) scores in a 46-yard pass reception from quarterback Drake Maye in the first quarter against Minnesota on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.
North Carolina’s Nate McCollum (6) scores in a 46-yard pass reception from quarterback Drake Maye in the first quarter against Minnesota on Saturday, September 16, 2023 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill N.C.

Pregame updates

The Tar Heels were wearing Tez Walker jerseys and T shirts in their pregame walk into Kenan. Walker, has been ruled ineligible this season by the NCAA as a two-time transfer, but his coaches and teammates have shown solidarity in supporting him. ....

Noah Burnette will be UNC’s placekicker today, replacing the Ryan Coe. It was Coe that missed a field-goal try on the last play of regulation against ASU last week. Coe had a 47-yarder in the game and the late miss was his first of the season after converting the first three. ...

The Carolina Hurricanes had a contingent of players at the game. Jordan Staal, Brett Pesce, Freddie Andersen and others watched pregame warmups from the UNC sideline. Brady Skjei, a Minnesota native, seemed more interested in the Gophers. ...

Triangle ties

Greg Harbaugh, Minnesota’s co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, had his own cheering section Saturday, given his Triangle ties.

“I grew up a half an hour from Chapel Hill,” Harbaugh said this week in a Minnesota media session. “I’ve been in that stadium as a fan, as a kid, half a dozen times. “My father played at East Carolina. My mom went to East Carolina. My older sister went to Duke. My little sister went to North Carolina and is getting married on campus. My wife went to North Carolina State. So we have all these ties to the area.”

Harbaugh, 36, is a Raleigh native. He played at Sanderson High, then at Averett University in Virginia. His football coaching path began at N.C. Wesleyan and Methodist University. From there, it was on to Chattanooga, Western Michigan and Minnesota.