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Syracuse football starts road trip in Chapel Hill against No. 14 North Carolina

Dan Villari (89, orange) dives for the endzone in SU's loss to Clemson.
Dan Villari (89, orange) dives for the endzone in SU's loss to Clemson.

Syracuse football (4–1, 0-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) heads down south to face No. 14 North Carolina (4–0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The trip commences a 34-day stretch where The Orange are away from the confines of the JMA Wireless Dome. The span of away contests is the third-longest in college football this season.

The last time the Orange were in Chapel Hill was in 2020 when the Tar Heels came out victorious 31-6. That game featured 2022 fifth-round draft pick Sam Howell under center for North Carolina. Fast forward to Saturday, UNC has another projected draft pick in quarterback Drake Maye.

Andre Cisco (7, white) stared down UNC's offense in the 2020 season opener.
Andre Cisco (7, white) stared down UNC's offense in the 2020 season opener.

The reigning ACC Player of the Year has come out of the gate hot once again. The sophomore has five touchdowns through the air and three on the ground.

Head coach Dino Babers says his team needs to be prepared for a top-tier QB in Maye.

"This guy is different,” said Babers. “He's going to be an NFL guy and he's what makes that team go on offense and he gets his playmakers the ball in situations where they can make plays and that's the reason why they're a very explosive team they score a lot of points."

Putting points on the board is what North Carolina has done this year. In the Tar Heels opening four games, the offense has had 30 or more points. The anchor behind the scoring is none other than Maye, with more than 200 passing yards in each contest.

Saturday will be Maye's first time squaring off against Syracuse QB Garret Shrader. Both North Carolina natives have the same quarterback trainer, and coach Babers can see it when comparing their style of play.

"They're both mobile, they both can throw on the run, they both can sit in the pocket and take shots and I think they both have an opportunity for NFL careers,” said Babers.”

Shrader's numbers this season have mirrored those of Maye. The senior has thrown eight TDs and ran in six scores, including a career-high four in a road victory against Purdue earlier in the year.

"He is one of the toughest quarterbacks I have ever seen," UNC head coach Mack Brown said about Shrader. "You are getting ready to hit him (Shrader), and he slides; if you hit him, it is a penalty. If you think he is going to slide at 6'4" 225, he will run right over you."

Against Clemson last week, Shrader fumbled the football on the opening drive that the Tigers recovered. The turnover would be the first of three for SU, leading to its first loss of the year, 31-14.

The Tar Heels, so far this campaign, have forced six turnovers. In contrast, The Orange have only one turnover-free game this season.

Syracuse can get back in the win column on Saturday in Chapel Hill, where they have not won since 2003, while North Carolina is fresh off a bye week and off to its first 4-0 start since 1997.

WAER coverage starts at 3 p.m. with McClurg Remodeling Countdown to Kickoff.