With new QB at helm, UNC looks to capture Duke's Mayo Bowl

Wednesday, December 27, 2023
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WTVD) -- North Carolina began the season with a highly touted quarterback and lofty hopes.

Signal caller Drake Maye was touted as a Heisman hopeful and potential No. 1 NFL Draft pick. Though Maye seems certain to be one of the first players chosen in the draft, the Tar Heels limped to an 8-4 record after a 6-0 start, losing their final two regular-season games along the way.

Now, with a new face at QB, the Tar Heels look to cap the season on a positive note with a win against 8-4 West Virginia in the Duke's Mayo Bowl on Wednesday.


A mayo bowl bath for the winning coach, among other things. The Duke's Mayo Bowl traditionally dumps mayo over the head of the winning coach after the game.

The Tar Heels are without Maye, a likely top-10 draft pick who has opted out of the bowl, so they will get a jump-start on preparing for next season. The Tar Heels lost to Clemson and North Carolina State in their last two games. The Mountaineers are looking to finish out a season strong after exceeding expectations. West Virginia beat Cincinnati and Baylor to close the regular season. The Mountaineers are just 3-8 in bowl games since 2010.

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North Carolina quarterback Conner Harrell vs. West Virginia's 69th-ranked defense.

Harrell gets his first career college start in place of the highly regarded Maye. He is faster than Maye, so expect to see more QB runs from the Tar Heels. But it will be tough for Harrell to match Maye's accuracy and arm strength. Also, Harrell will be without the team's primary wide receiver in Tez Walker, who amassed 41 catches for 699 yards and seven TDs after missing several games while being declared ineligible by the NCAA. Like Maye, Walker opted out and is likely headed to the NFL.


North Carolina: RM Omarion Hampton. With a new quarterback at the helm, look for the Tar Heels to lean heavily on Hampton on offense. He was fifth in the nation in rushing with 1,442 yards while averaging 6.2 yards per carry. He scored 15 touchdowns.

West Virginia: RB Jahiem White. The freshman standout will replace CJ Donaldson, who will miss the bowl game. White has shown a good burst, running for 792 yards on 97 carries this season, an impressive 8.2 yards per carry. West Virginia QB Garrett Greene has played in 33 games, throwing for 2,842 yards with 20 touchdowns and seven INTs. He's more dangerous on the ground, where he has run for 1,321 yards and 22 touchdowns in his career.


The teams have only met twice. Both previous matchups between the two teams came in bowl games. North Carolina won the Gator Bowl 20-13 in 1997, while West Virginia won this same bowl in 2008 when it was called the Meineke Car Care Bowl.


The Tar Heels will be without LB Cedric Gray, a key cog on defense and the team's leading tackler (121). He also had five sacks.

Mountaineers C Zach Frazier will miss the game after needing surgery and DL Mike Lockhart and S Hershey McLaurin have entered the transfer portal.


The game begins at 5:30 p.m. Eastern from Bank of America Stadium and will be televised on ESPN.

The Associated Press contributed.
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