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Analysis: How Drake Maye matches up against the Gophers’ defense

Minnesota heads to Chapel Hill to face off against a high-powered Tar Heels offense.
Image by Jack Rodgers
Head coach P.J. Fleck celebrates on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018 at Huntington Bank Stadium. The Gophers’ loss against Northwestern weekend leaves no clear roadmap for where the team goes next.

Minnesota Gophers football will visit Chapel Hill, North Carolina, on Saturday to play against the no. 20 Tar Heels, their first ranked opponent of the season. The game will be the first time both programs face each other.

The Gophers put on a dominant display in all facets last weekend, beating Eastern Michigan 25-6. The performance created a momentum the team is hoping to carry over as they head into a tough road test.

Minnesota’s defense currently sits as the eighth-best in the country in yards allowed per game (223.5) while only allowing one touchdown in the first two weeks.

Quarterback Drake Maye, who is projected by many to be a top-five NFL draft pick next year, leads the North Carolina offense with 238.5 passing yards per game and three total touchdowns.

Gophers head coach P.J. Fleck commented on how great of a player Maye is and was asked what impressed him about the Tar Heels quarterback.

“Everything he is as advertised, he’s smooth now, nothing rattles him. He is a great runner; he is a great athlete, very accurate,” Fleck said. “He can do it all, that’s why he is the number one quarterback in the draft, they say, coming up.”

Heading into week three of the college football season, the Gophers have allowed 92.5 passing yards per game. The last time North Carolina failed to reach 100 passing yards was in 2016 against Virginia Tech.

The Gophers are expecting a handful from the North Carolina offense, which also features a running back who ran for 234 yards and three touchdowns against Appalachian State.

On Minnesota’s defensive side, look for defensive lineman Kyler Baugh to do damage control on Maye and the Tar Heels’ passing game.

Baugh is coming off his best performance as a Gopher statistically, recording seven pressures and two sacks.

“I mean, I’ve been here a while. It was probably the best game a defensive tackle has had,” said defensive coordinator Joe Rossi.

Rossi’s defensive line has improved drastically in the first two weeks. After only recording 19 sacks a season ago, the Gophers are currently on pace to beat that number in six games.

The improvements made upfront have also benefited the Gophers’ defensive backs. The group has tallied four interceptions in the first two games, two of them coming from safety Tyler Nubin.

During a press conference covered by The Daily Tar Heel, North Carolina head coach Mack Brown was asked about the difference his team feels before facing the Gophers, a team North Carolina is unfamiliar with, versus rival teams.

“The difference is emotion,” Brown said. “They know a lot of kids on the South Carolina team and the Appalachian State team. Most of [the players] only know Chris Collins [on Minnesota].”

Collins is a sixth-year defensive lineman for the Gophers who transferred from North Carolina this past year.

Brown clarified that, despite the unfamiliarity, “We have seen them play Nebraska; we have seen them play Eastern Michigan.”

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