UNC pounds Syracuse to move to 5-0

UNC quarterback Drake Maye looks to pass against Syracuse during the Tar Heels’ 40-7 win Saturday in Chapel Hill. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

CHAPEL HILL — UNC was dominant on both sides of the ball, blowing out Syracuse 40-7 at Kenan Stadium on Saturday.

The Tar Heels gained 644 yards on offense, the 10th-most in school history and highest total in two years. Carolina also allowed just 221 yards, its fewest since 2020 in recording its most lopsided ACC win at Kenan since beating Miami 59-21 in 2015.

The Heels scored on their first seven drives, including all five times they had the ball in the first half, building a 27-0 halftime lead.

“We started quick, something we’ve had trouble doing,” said UNC coach Mack Brown. “We started fast and kept our foot on the gas. I think that was the most dominant first half I’ve seen since we’ve been here.”

Syracuse ran 22 plays in the first half, one fewer than the number of Drake Maye completions as he set a school record for completions in a half with 23. UNC had the ball for more than 20 minutes and ran 59 plays in the first half.

Maye had 280 passing yards at the half and kept rolling until the team pulled him out of the game late in the fourth quarter. He finished 33 of 47 for 442 yards, the sixth-most in school history. He also threw three touchdowns and added 55 rushing yards to have the third-best total offense game in UNC history. Maye teamed up with Nate McCollum for seven completions for 135 yards. Kobe Paysour also had 100 yards on three catches, including a touchdown.

While his teammates had bigger yardage totals, the story of the game might have been Tez Walker, who made his season debut after a prolonged wait to get cleared by the NCAA after an offseason transfer. He had six catches for 43 yards and was cheered loudly every time he was involved in a play. He showed flashes of the playmaking ability that had the Heels so desperate to get him eligible, including a one-handed leaping sideline catch.

“It was a fun day out there,” Walker said.

Brown said his offense has the potential to get even better as Walker gets acclimated to it.

“He didn’t get to work with Drake this week,” he said. “He had a walk-through on Friday. That was it.”

The defense also came to play, recording three tackles for loss, six quarterback hits and two interceptions.

“The defense was probably the best we’ve played since we’ve been back,” Brown said. “They were legitimate throughout the game.”

The Heels improved to 5-0 on the year, their best start to a season since winning the first eight in 1997. They host Miami next Saturday in a top-25 clash.