LISTEN: MATT BAKER (2:57)
“I wouldn’t say I’ve been at my best,” a modest Baker said, downplaying recent praise. “There is still a long ways for me to go and unfortunately there are only two games left for me to get there. But I have high expectations for myself, so it’s tough for me to say I’ve been at my best.”
Baker completed 25 of 40 passing attempts for 335 yards with no interceptions and one touchdown, setting career highs for completions, passing yards and total offense.
His 21-yard draw play to the 7-yard line set up Carolina’s game-tying field goal in the fourth quarter.
And how many of Baker’s 15 missed connections were due to receivers simply dropping passes. It’s been a problem spot all year.
“(Dropped passes) are going to happen,” he said. “And not every pass to the wide receiver is going to be perfect when he is open. You can’t just look at the receiver and say, ‘Darn it, they dropped one,’ I’ve made the same mistake with a bad pass, and that never gets as much attention as a dropped pass.”
Despite Baker’s ability to elevate his play down the stretch, it has not equated to points on the scoreboard. And Baker is not about to deflect, or absorb, the blame. To him, it’s a team responsibility.
“I would say the offense as a whole has kind of struggled,” Baker said. “We had two games where we had only 100 yards passing. Granted we won the Virginia game, but it wasn’t a great day either rushing or passing. And then the Miami game, the second half just fell apart on us."
Baker’s 335-yard passing performance on Saturday was the eighth-best single-game total in school history. His 356 offensive yard total is the 10th best single-game mark in school history.
“It’s not surprising to me because I think he has that kind of ability,” John Bunting said on Tuesday during his weekly press conference.
In his last two games, Baker has completed 45 of 72 attempts (.625) for 546 yards and a touchdown. After throwing at least one interception in the first six games of the year, he has thrown just one in his last 90 offerings, over a span of three games.
In the win over Boston College, when he went 20-for-32 for 211 yards, eight of his completions were third-down conversions.
But prior to the win over the Eagles, Baker admits he was becoming more than a little upset with the state of the offense.
“When you’re a quarterback and your group is not performing, obviously its frustrating,” he said. “But you can’t let it get to you. Thankfully we have bounced back a little in the last couple of weeks.”
Baker has passed for more than 200 yards on six different occasions this season.
“Due to the fact that he’s a first-year starter, he may have had some difficulty at the midpoint handling frustration – frustration from himself, frustration from other players, frustration from not being able to score as many points,” Bunting said.
This week, he is ranked fourth in the ACC in passing yards (216.3) and seventh in total offense (215.3). He will be one of 24 seniors honored prior to this weekend's home final versus Duke.
With two regular season games left on the schedule, Baker has 1,947 passing yards, which ranks eighth on the single-season school record chart. His 1,938 total yards of offense is ninth.
Baker is 53 yards shy of becoming the seventh UNC quarterback to throw for 2,000 yards.
Which makes one wonder what he could have been capable of if his career at North Carolina wasn't about to end.
“I’ve played better in these last couple of weeks, but in my mind, I’ve still got a long way to go.”
Unfortunately, his time at UNC is running out.