Charles LeClair-USA TODAY Sports
AP Sports Writer
PITTSBURGH (AP) Drake May threw for 296 yards, including an impressive left-handed flip for a touchdown, and ran for two more scores as No. 17 North Carolina cruised past Pittsburgh 41-24 on Saturday night.
The Tar Heels improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1997 – the final year of coach Mack Brown’s first tenure at UNC before leaving for Texas – by relying on Maye and allowing the Panthers to self-destruct.
May completed 22 of 30 passes. Right-hander’s lefty throw to Kobe Paysura for a 7-yard score in the bottom of the first inning gave the Tar Heels some breathing room in their Atlantic Coast Conference opener.
Omarion Hampton ran for 66 yards and a touchdown for UNC. JJ Jones caught six passes for 117 yards and Elijah Huzzi returned the ball 52 yards for a score as the Tar Heels beat Pitt (1-3, 0-1) for the first time since 2018.
Rodney Hammond ran for 83 yards and a touchdown and Kenny Johnson ran for 100 yards on a kickoff return and a score for the Panthers, who lost quarterback Phil Jurkovec to an undisclosed injury late in the first half after he was hit by Tayon Holloway from UNC. who was kicked out for attacking the performance.
Jurkovec, who struggled in losses to Cincinnati and West Virginia, showed new confidence by completing 11 of 15 passes for 109 yards before leaving. Backup Christian Velier, a transfer from Penn State, was 8 of 19 for 88 yards with two interceptions.
The Panthers led 14-7 early in the second quarter before May and the Tar Heels took over. UNC scored 28 of the next 31 points, highlighted by a play late in the first half that – if Maye’s fledgling Heisman Trophy campaign can gain momentum in October – will serve as a showcase for his combination of athleticism and football IQ.
May took the snap at the Pitt 7 and ran left, arming Panther defensive end Nate Temple with his right arm. The sophomore then jumped and threw a half-spiral to an open Paysur in the back of the end zone, putting UNC up 28-17 with a minute left in the half.
The Tar Heels extended their lead to 18 eight plays in the third quarter when May slid in from 1 yard out and UNC drove the rest of the way against a Pitt team off to its worst start since 2017.
UNC: Begins a three-game streak at Kenan Memorial Stadium on Oct. 7 when Syracuse visits.
Pitt: At Virginia Tech next Saturday. The Panthers have won each of their last three meetings with the Hokies.