In the aftermath of the UNC football team’s near upset over then-No. 1 Clemson, head coach Mack Brown has implored his team to keep the same energy this week as they prepare for a trip to Atlanta to face a new-look Georgia Tech squad.
Brown said the lead up to the Clemson game featured the best practices the Tar Heels have had all season, with the motivation of facing the defending national champions serving to elevate the entire team.
The end results showed on the field and then some, but the challenge is only just beginning.
For UNC to become the type of team that Brown ultimately wants it to become, it will have to prove it can stay motivated the same way regardless of opponent.
This week will certainly provide a challenge in that area, because the Tar Heels head to Atlanta as favorites against a Georgia Tech team also undergoing a massive rebuild. Under new head coach Geoff Collins—who has switched away from the triple-option offense made synonymous with the program by former boss Paul Johnson–the Yellow Jackets are 1-3 this season and are coming off back-to-back embarrassing losses to The Citadel and Temple.
In order to avoid a disappointing four-game losing streak of their own, though, Brown needs his Tar Heels to approach Georgia Tech as if they were playing Clemson again.
“I think the thing that you look at is, if we lay down and don’t play after this, then we didn’t learn,” Brown told reporters on Monday. “If we use it again to continue to grow and build, then we really learned something.
“It did send a message to our fanbase that we’re headed in the right direction,” the Hall-of-Famer added. “It did send a message to recruits that, if we can get Clemson down to one play, we’re going to be good in the future, so you’d better jump on now because this train is taking off.”
Sitting at 2-3 through five games that each went down to the final play, UNC has proven it has enough to challenge any team it goes up against. The Tar Heels are not afraid of anybody, and they have no desire to quit until the final seconds have ticked off the clock.
Although there have been criticisms that they didn’t seem to get as excited for opponents like Wake Forest and Appalachian State as they did for South Carolina, Miami and Clemson, Brown’s philosophies appear to be trickling down to the rest of the staff and the players.
At this stage in his Hall-of-Fame coaching career, Brown isn’t leaving anything to chance.
That explains his decision to go for two points and the win late in the game against Clemson last Saturday, and it explains the attitude he wants his team to have no matter who the opponent is.
“We’re going to be aggressive,” Brown said. “I’m at a stage in my life where I don’t care about anything but winning and doing it within the rules. So if anybody wants to criticize me, who cares? I don’t care. I’m not looking for another job. So I think the biggest thing is that it’s freedom to be this age and to have won this many games and be able to do what you think is best for your team.”
Following UNC’s practice on Wednesday, Brown admitted the Tar Heels haven’t quite matched the same intensity level as the week before.
When asked if injuries and the streak of close games may factor into that, the coach made sure to point out that any of those things are just excuses and that falling to 2-4 would be unacceptable.
The focus has been turned inwards from opponents to themselves, and the only thing that matters is winning from here on out.
“We’re young, we’re banged up, we’ve got a bunch of people out, we’ve had five straight games that came down to the last drive,” Brown said. “None of which matters on Saturday. We’ve got to play Saturday. And Georgia Tech will be motivated.”
Cover photo via Dakota Moyer