Drake Maye made a mistake on Tuesday.

And no, it wasn’t by firing an unsolicited broadside shot at rival NC State in response to a seemingly innocent question about the decision to flip his commitment from Alabama to North Carolina.

His error was apologizing for doing it.

Maye, the freshman quarterback sensation who has led the Tar Heels to an early 3-0 start, was asked if the success of previous quarterback Sam Howell had an impact on his decision to play for the school at which his father and older brother starred.

“Yeah, one hundred percent. I didn’t want to miss out on my home state,” the Charlotte native said, adding that “whether you want to admit it or not, growing up in (North) Carolina, you’re going to be a Carolina fan. Some people may say State, but really, people who go to State just can’t get into Carolina.”

That’s not actually the case, of course.

Everybody knows it. Even Maye knows it.

But what’s a rivalry without a little trash talk?

Statements like the one Maye made Tuesday show up on the internet several times every day. They’re meant to get a rise out of the other side and they usually do. The appropriate response is an equally pithy comeback.

Not an apology.

Even State linebacker Payton Wilson agreed.

“I don’t think the kid should have to apologize for anything he said,” Wilson told David Thompson of the Fayetteville (N,C.) Observer. “Stuff like that is said all the time. We hear it all the time. It’s part of the game and part of UNC vs. NC State.”

This is now the second time in just over a month that someone associated with UNC has publicly disparaged the Wolfpack.

In August, women’s basketball coach Courtney Banghart also poked the hornet’s nest by calling State fans “classless” during an appearance on a podcast. Like Maye, she quickly issued a generic apology in response to the backlash.

Banghart’s mea culpa was at least somewhat understandable since she’s an adult who should know better rather than a kid throwing out a line to fish for a laugh.

But even her response was unnecessary, in part because it came off as being coerced and disingenuous.

Which it was on both counts.

There’s absolutely no difference between the recent comments of Banghart and Maye, and those made by State coach Dave Doeren in his postgame comments in 2014 following his first win against the Tar Heels.

It was a story about an encounter he had with a UNC fan while waiting in line to pick up his dry cleaning. In it, he repeated a litany of Tar Heel fan stereotypes by describing the guy as wearing “khakis, shoes and a fancy belt with UNC things on it and a light blue shirt with the collar up.”

He then doubled down on the implication that the Tar Heels are preppy, spoiled, soft rich guys by adding that State is a blue-collar, hands in the dirt” kind of place supported by “intelligent, but very hard-working people.”

Instead of issuing an apology, Doeren and his program embraced the statement by posting the “hands in the dirt” quote onto the wall in the lobby of the Murphy Center for everyone to see as they enter the front doors.

Maye’s comment will undoubtedly end up on the wall in another area of the Murphy Center as this year’s rivalry showdown between the Tar Heels and Wolfpack in Chapel Hill on Thanksgiving Friday nears.

But who cares?

Locker room bulletin board material is something for fans to get fired up about. Players are already motivated enough, especially for a rivalry game that could potentially have ACC Championship Game implications, without needing any kind of artificial stimulation.

UNC coach Mack Brown said as much during his attempt at damage control on Wednesday.

“People pick at each other all the time,” he said. “At lunch, the NC State and Carolina people can pick at each other and it’s OK.”

Brown defended Maye by saying that he was just “cutting up” and “meant no harm” by his comments. He told his young quarterback that he wants him to keep having fun, but that he’s got to be “very, very respectful of people with your fun.”

In this case, he made a rookie mistake and the joke went too far.

As a result, Maye, his teammates and coaches are now dealing with an unwanted distraction as they prepare for a key game against Notre Dame on Saturday. The faster they put this all behind them, the better.

It won’t be easy.

Controversies such as this generate too many clicks to go away in a single news cycle. So Maye’s comments are bound to live on at least until the next games are played, if not longer.

As media and fans, we want athletes to show some personality and speak from the heart rather than from the book of clichés. But as soon as they do, they often find themselves being criticized for their words. And they become much more guarded in their future comments because of it.

Hopefully, that doesn’t happen to Maye. Or anyone on the NC State side of the equation as well, for that matter.

Because what’s a rivalry without a little trash talk?