UNC football coach Mack Brown joined Ron Stutts this morning for “Mondays with Mack,” presented by Chapel Hill Tire. Read his entire interview below:
First of all, I just want you to know that I saw that video of you dancing in the locker room after the game. Really enjoyed that one, didn’t you?
Ron, I did. But it was also a bet. Our players and coaches were asked to tell their personal stories at each team meeting. So we’d have two players in a coach or a staff member stand up and they got real personal. Then the kids wanted to have some fun.
So we started a dance contest before every team meeting and they’d come out and they danced to their music. We’d see where we’re going and then they said, coach, you gotta get up here and do your dance. And I said, I’ll dance when you beat South Carolina. I’m not doing anything until you beat South Carolina.
Little did I realize as I was coming off the field and I walked in, the chant was not about beating South Carolina. The chant was to have old coach dance. And then I didn’t realize that ESPN was in there and that we were going to let the whole country watch coach dance because he doesn’t dance.
Well, I thought you were rather rhythmic in this particular performance.
Well, that’s very nice of you Ron. That’s probably the only compliment I’ve gotten. I had over 600 text messages after the game and most of them said, oh my gosh, you looked horrible dancing.
Well it was a joyful scenario and seriously, congratulations on this monumental win over South Carolina. Most people are calling this an upset. Do you think it was an upset?
Yes. I think because of the troubles that we’ve had finishing games, Ron, in the fourth quarter the last couple of years there was a real lack of confidence. South Carolina is an older team.
We played 11 true freshman across all three phases and a lot of other really young guys that had never been in a college game including our quarterback. We had suspensions on defense and then get the the other corner knocked out in the first series.
So we had two linebackers, three linebackers played that had never been in a game at linebacker. So I think that it would have to be considered an upset because our guys overcame so many things to win.
Mack, besides Trey Morrison coming out in the first series, any other injuries to report today?
No, I think we came out of it pretty good.
Okay, well that’s fantastic. And Sam Howell of course, the first true freshman to ever start at Carolina at quarterback. After watching the tape, if you would, assess his overall performance.
I thought he did a great job. We were very conservative with him in the first half and then we felt like we just ought to turn him loose in the second half. He played really, really well.
He made some downfield throws. After scrambling, he ran for a couple of key plays for first downs and pretty much took care of the ball, Ron. He had the ball on the ground once as a fumble that they got that was their only turnover and then once more that we fell on.
So quarterbacks’ ball security is not usually very good because they don’t get hit much in practice. He’ll learn from that. He such a tough young man, he’s got to slide more and not be hit as much.But I thought he made really, really good decisions with the ball.
Well to the untrained eye, it seemed that that you really opened up the playbook a bit in the second half and let Sam Howell be Sam Howell. He did pretty well, didn’t he?
Yes he did. I think he’s got a lot of great years ahead as our quarterback, and we were so excited about watching him play. And the best thing about him is his demeanor. Even though we have a delay of game in the first play of the game, he didn’t even blink and didn’t look up, didn’t seem upset. He said, okay, I waited too long. Let’s go again.
Turning to the defense now, aside from some missed tackles in the first half, your defense really played pretty well against South Carolina, didn’t it?
Absolutely. At 270 yards, we held an older South Carolina to the fewest allowed yards by a UNC defense since 2013, Ron. So for an opening ball game with the suspensions and young linebackers. I thought that Coach Bateman and the guys did a great job and they were just relentless.
And it’s really funny, people aren’t tackling as much in practice anymore with targeting, concussions and injuries and lack of depth. So in most ball games you’re seeing a lot of poor tackling in the first quarter, first half, and then much better tackling in the second half, and I think that really was what happened with us and South Carolina.
We knew going in that one of the strengths of this young Carolina team would be the running backs and they proved it on Saturday night. I’ve got to say, you got three guys who can really go. Three who had at least 50 yards rushing in that game. How would you assess the strengths of these three guys?
I think they may be, as a group, the best three running backs in the country, Ron. They protect the ball. They’re physical. I thought when the Antonio Williams came in in the fourth quarter, he obviously had fresher legs than everybody else and helped us on the 98-yard drive. They get along. We need all three of them.
We rushed for 238 yards Saturday and lost some when we had the sacks and only gave up 128. So the strength of our team remains the physical offensive line that we’re becoming and the great backs behind it.
It was certainly a signature win for you coming back to Carolina and winning this season opener. And I know that your attention has already turned to Miami this coming weekend. Now a very talented Miami team comes up Saturday night in what ought to be a sold-out Kenan Stadium. Tell us about the Hurricanes.
Ron, they’re just really, really talented. Manny Diaz and I worked together. He’ll have them ready to go. They’ve had two weeks to prepare for us after their Florida loss and they had opportunity after opportunity to beat Florida and Florida is one of the best teams in the country.
But this will be, along with Clemson, the most talented team that we play all year. So it’ll be a real challenge for us.
What does Miami have that maybe South Carolina didn’t that you might be a little worried about?
They’ve got better pass rushers on the edge, and they’ve got better linebackers. I think Miami has either the best combination of two linebackers in the country or they’re in that group, Ron. They’re two seniors that have been around for a while and those guys can really, really play.
For our fans, it’ll be 55 and 56, [Shaquille] Quarterman and [Michael] Pickney. The guys can just run. They’re all over the place. We’ll need our crowd, need them in the seats 30 minutes early.
It should be electric. It will be sold out. It looks like the weather’s going to be good. I’m praying for all the people in the Bahamas and up the coast with the hurricane. But it should be a fun night in Chapel Hill.
That’s kind of my next question. I was gonna say with Dorian, you know, we’ve all been following this very closely. What happens with Bubba Cunningham and you, if Dorian actually causes our weather to be really bad here on Friday or Saturday, what happens with that game then?
You know, Ron, I’m worried about the Hurricane in Miami. I’m gonna let Bubba worry about the one coming up the coast because he’s got a lot more experience with that than I do. I’m gonna take our team wherever they tell us to play. I think right now everybody thinks it’ll be in Kenan Stadium.
Well, you talked about this just a moment ago, but Saturday night under the lights, first home game of the season versus a quality opponent. Now everybody was excited about Carolina football this season with you being back and this young team showing so much promise, but after Saturday’s game against South Carolina, that enthusiasm is just cranked up to a fever pitch. In order to maintain that momentum and play well against Miami, what does the fan base need to do to help you guys get there?
Just keep being positive. The fans in Charlotte were great. We didn’t play well at times in the first half. They hung in there, they didn’t leave. It was hot.
We were on the sun side so the sun was right in their face the whole game. And I thought our fans were a huge difference in the early second half and even into the fourth quarter because they were pumped and on their feet and cheering and that’s what we need on Saturday night.
Need everybody, like I said, in their seats 30 minutes early and that will help us so much and fans can make a difference in ball games. I always said when we’re playing bad and you boo us, it doesn’t help us. We know we’re playing bad, but when we’re playing bad’s when we need you to pick it up and be great as a fan.
Because that’s what I do as a coach. We got to pick the kids up when things aren’t good and when we’re playing good, just enjoy it. You laugh and cut up. But when we’re playing bad, the difference in ballgames is that home crowd advantage when they can pick the guys up.
As you continue to build this Carolina program, I know that there are lots of special things planned. We know that the bell tower is going to be lighting up blue with Carolina victories. Any other surprises for us starting on Saturday night?
The guys will pull up to the bell tower two hours before the game, Ron, and we’d like for everybody to come out and be around them.
They’ll walk around each side of the bell tower to meet fans. Then they’ll come down those steps in front of Kenan, there will be a lot more of the tailgaters sitting there waiting on them. And then we’ll have a lot of recruits waiting on them as they walk in the door.
So that’s another special tradition that we’re trying to start. And hopefully some of these can last for a lifetime because the tower being lit blue was so special on Saturday night. If we can do something to pull off a win this weekend, it’d be fun for everybody to go up to the bell tower and enjoy the victory.
Well Coach, good luck on Saturday night. Let’s make it two in a row. Congratulations on the win Saturday night. But we’re looking forward to the Miami game, and we appreciate your being with us.
Thank you, Ron. I’ve never seen a happier team than in that dressing room after this win. So that was huge for us. Now, we’ve got to put that one to bed and get ready for the next one.
Well, the enthusiasm was contagious because it made me feel like dancing, too. It was incredible.
Well just don’t do it on ESPN.