There is no doubt that the infamous “air-raid” offense led by QB Drake Maye with a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal was likely the largest reason the Heels found success on the offensive side of the ball.
We know how good this offense was all year, ranking 20th in the country in total offense (was 8th at one point, dropped as a result of last 4 losses). Relying on the passing game, it became difficult to move the ball efficiently when receivers were covered and the Heels’ run game had not been developed to the fullest extent. But the question becomes, how did the ebb and flow of the passing game determine both wins and losses at the end of the day? Additionally, how did the Heels’ dependence on their star WR1, junior Josh Downs, often become a necessity to win games, but also a detriment in tough losses?
Here I will present for you the receiving statistics of each game, along with key injuries and events that might have impacted the group. At the end, I will provide some of my observations that I found to be significant while I revisited each of these box scores.
vs. FAMU (56-24 W)
294 total yards, 5 total TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 9 rec 78 yards 2 TD
Bryson Nesbit (TE) – 4 rec 53 yards 1 TD
*Sophomore WR Gavin Blackwell scored first career TD, along with
at App State (63-61 W)
352 total yards, 4 total TD
Kobe Paysour (WR) – 8 rec 92 yards 1 TD (first career TD)
JJ Jones (WR) – 4 rec 69 yards 1 TD
Bryson Nesbit (TE) – 3 rec 47 yards 1 TD
Key Injuries – Josh Downs (WR) and Antoine Green (WR)
*Other Notes: Sophomore WRs Kobe Paysour, starting at the slot for an injured Josh Downs, and JJ Jones, both scored their first career TDs in the first half of this game.
at Georgia State (35-28 W)
284 total yards, 2 total TD W
Kobe Paysour (WR) – 5 rec 73 yards 1 TD
Kamari Morales (TE) – 3 rec 71 yards 1 TD
Key Injuries – WR Josh Downs (knee) and WR Antoine Green (upper body)
vs. Notre Dame (45-32 L)
301 yards, 5 TD
Antoine Green (WR) – 3 rec 150 yards 2 TD
JJ Jones (WR) – 2 rec 71 yards
Josh Downs (WR) – 5 rec 32 yards 2 TD
*Other Notes: Freshman RB Omarion Hampton scored 5th receiving touchdown.
vs. Virginia Tech (41-10 W)
367 yards, 3 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 8 rec 120 yards
Bryson Nesbit (TE) – 4 rec 98 yards 1 TD
*Other Notes: Senior TE Kamari Morales was responsible for the 1st TD of the game, and totaled 3 receptions for 29 yards.
at Miami (27-24 W)
309 yards, 2 TD
JJ Jones (WR) – 2 rec 80 yards 1 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 6 rec 69 yards 1 TD
*Other Notes: The Heels did not score a touchdown in the second half of the game, only two field goals.
at Duke (38-35 W)
380 yards, 3 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 9 rec 126 yards
Antoine Green (WR) – 4 rec 112 yards 1 TD
- First touchdown of the game was scored by TE Kamari Morales on a 10-yd pass from QB Drake Maye.
- Second receiving touchdown was caught by Sophomore RB Caleb Hood.
- Senior WR Antoine Green’s touchdown catch was game-winning.
vs. Pitt (42-24 W)
388 yards, 5 TD
Antoine Green (WR) – 10 rec 180 yards 2 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 11 rec 102 yards 2 TD
Key Injuries – TE Bryson Nesbit (knee)
at Virginia (31-28 W)
293 yards, 2 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 223 all purpose yards
- 15 rec 166 yards 1 TD
Antoine Green (WR) – 3 rec 33 yards
at Wake Forest (36-34 W)
448 yards, 3 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 11 rec 154 yards 3 TD
Antoine Green (WR) – 4 rec 81 yards
*Other Notes: WR Antoine Green left the game with an upper body injury.
vs. Georgia Tech (21-17 L)
202 yards, 0 TD
Bryson Nesbit (TE) – 4 rec 85 yards
Gavin Blackwell (WR) – 2 rec 54 yards
Key Injuries – WR Antoine Green (upper body), TE John Copenhaver (upper body)
*Other Notes: WR Josh Downs dropped what might have been the game-winning TD in the 4th quarter while down 17-21.
vs. NC State (30-27 2OT L)
233 yards, 1 TD
Antoine Green (WR) – 8 rec 67 yards 1 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 6 rec 57 yards
*Other Notes: WR Antoine Green caught the game-tying touchdown to take the game into overtime.
ACC Championship Game vs. Clemson (39-10 L)
273 yards, 0 TD
Josh Downs (WR) – 11 rec 100 yards
Kamari Morales (TE) – 3 rec 54 yards
Holiday Bowl vs. Oregon (28-27 L)
206 yards, 3 TD
Kobe Paysour (WR) – 7 rec 98 yards 1 TD
Bryson Nesbit (TE) – 3 rec 37 yards 1 TD
Key Opt-Outs/Injuries: WR Josh Downs (NFL Draft), WR Antoine Green (lower body injury)
Records to Note
Josh Downs, a Determining Factor?
- 5-1 when he had equal to or over 100 yards receiving
- 2-3 when he had less than 100 yards receiving
- 6-0 when he scored at least 1 TD
- 2-1 when both Josh Downs and Antoine Green were injured/ opted out
- 4-4 when someone other than Downs led in receiving yards
Passing Game Success Impacting the Outcome
- 6-1 when over 300 total yards receiving
- 3-4 when under 300 total yards receiving
- 9-3 when scoring at least one receiving TD
- 0-2 when scoring no receiving TDs
- Antoine Green is clutch, seriously.
- When the tight ends are utilized better, the flow of UNC’s offense is greatly improved.
- UNC’s passing game was still able to succeed in the App State and Georgia State games without Josh Downs and Antoine Green, but their returns might have disrupted the flow of the offense, resulting in the loss at home to Notre Dame.
- When Josh Downs was feeling it, the offense had no problem. When he wasn’t, there was a chaotic scramble to find other options.