News & Notes from Mack Brown's Press Conference to Begin NC State Week

News & Notes from Mack Brown’s Press Conference to Begin NC State Week

CHAPEL HILL, NC — North Carolina football coach Mack Brown met with reporters Monday for his first media availability of the week that leads to Friday’s game against rival NC State, the regular-season finale for both teams.

The Tar Heels (9-2 overall, 6-1 ACC) are coming off their 21-17 loss to Georgia Tech, a stunner at home that saw UNC squander a 17-0 lead and fail to score during a second-half shutout. Drake Maye was sacked six times and didn’t throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season, Josh Downs dropped a go-ahead touchdown catch in the end zone during the game’s final 4½ minutes, and the Tar Heels’ six-game ACC winning streak crashed to an end, one week after clinching the title in the league’s Coastal Division.

UNC dropped up five spots to No. 18 in the AP Top 25 poll on Sunday, and will fall Tuesday night when the fourth edition of the College Football Playoff Rankings are released. The Tar Heels were No. 13 last week in the third installment from the CFP committee. UNC’s date in the ACC championship game against Clemson, the Atlantic Division champ, awaits Dec. 3 in Charlotte.

NC State (7-4, 3-4) is coming off back-to-back losses to Boston College and Louisville. The Wolfpack presumably could use its fourth different starter at quarterback this season against UNC. Ben Finley replaced starter Jack Chambers in NC State’s 25-10 loss at Louisville during the weekend. The Wolfpack didn’t have MJ Morris due to a lower-body injury, and Devin Leary was lost to a season-ending injury in October.

Here are our running notes from what Brown said Monday at Kenan Football Center …

— Tight end John Copenhaver and receiver Antoine Green participated in UNC’s practice Monday morning. Both missed the Georgia Tech game due to upper-body injuries.

The deep threat Green was knocked out of the Tar Heels’ win at Wake Forest by a big hit late in the first half that resulted in a targeting penalty against Wake Forest safety AJ Williams, who was ejected for the foul.

— UNC doesn’t award players of the game after losses. But Brown said on defense, cornerback Storm Duck played maybe his best game, while defensive linemen Kaimon Rucker, Jahvaree Ritzie and Kevin Hester Jr., and linebackers Cedric Gray and Power Echols played well against Georgia Tech, too. “The front people did a very good job,” Brown said.

On offense, tight ends Bryson Nesbit and Kamari Morales, and offensive lineman Ed Montilus were recognized as having played well. On special teams, Hester, Malik McGowan, Jonathan Adorno, Obi Egbuna, Marcus Allen, Dae Dae Hollins, Gibson Macrae and punter Ben Kiernan had another commendable game, Brown said.

— Brown said when Elijah Green broke the 80-yard touchdown run on the UNC offense’s first play against Georgia Tech, he instructed coaches and players to start over mentally and treat the score as if it was still 0-0.

Brown reiterated his long-held distrust of big-play scores early in games, and their tendency on occasion to create a false sense of security. “It’s usually an imposter,” he said. “It just looks like it’s going to be too easy. And you jump out 17-0 and then you don’t finish it.”

— The difference in the Georgia Tech game, Brown said, was the red zone. The Yellow Jackets went 3-for-3 in converting their trips into touchdowns, while UNC went 1-for-5 on scoring touchdowns in the red zone. That typically has been a strength for Maye and Co. that has helped power the Tar Heels this season. “We’ve got to get back to doing that better,” Brown said.

— “We don’t know who’s going to play quarterback (for NC State), but we just got beat by a team that played their third and fourth-team quarterbacks.”

— “I think it’s the most dangerous week of the year play,” Brown says, referring to the game that precedes a rivalry game at the end of the season.

—Today is essentially a Tuesday practice for UNC. Tomorrow is a Wednesday practice, and so forth on the shorter week.

— Brown says NC State has played great defense, not good defense. He says the Wolfpack ranks 21st nationally in total defense, 15th in scoring defense, 9th in rushing defense, 18th in third-down defense.

— On the rather suspect holding penalty against Nesbit that wiped out what would’ve been a 68-yard touchdown run by Green in the third quarrel, and extended UNC’s lead from 17-14, Brown said the Tar Heels have turned in the penalty to the ACC league office. Dennis Hennigan oversees the conference’s football officials.

“It’s a tough call that would’ve won the game,” Brown said. “But I’ve told the guys don’t put the game in the hands of the officials. … That was a tough one, and really a heartbreaker.”

— 3 of the 6 sacks against Georgia Tech were charged to the offensive line.

— Brown called UNC’s flat performance on offense against Georgia Tech “very uncharacteristic” and “very, very disappointing.” Brown said the Tar Heels must get their program to where they’re playing to a high standard regardless of the opponent.

“I kept saying during the week great teams don’t have a trap game,” Brown said. “They just get ready and go play. This was a case where it jumped up and bit us this weekend.”

Brown said he considers the game before a rivalry game at the end of the season, such as UNC’s situation with facing Georgia Tech and NC State, “the most dangerous week of the year play.”

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