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UNC Football vs. Duke: X-Factor

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At least this Saturday’s game starts at noon.

NCAA Football: North Carolina at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

At the beginning of his press conference Monday, North Carolina Tar Heels head coach Mack Brown opened with an lesson from Hall of Fame Texas coach Darrell Royal:

[He] told me one time, “What you’ve got to understand about your job is you’re responsible for how every North Carolina football fan feels every Saturday. And when that game starts, you have very little control. So you have responsibility without control.”

Brown might not be able to control the emotions of the fans during and after a game, but he is certainly the man on the sidelines making the decisions. Of course, the ultimate outcome of the game comes down to the execution of the players on the field, but coaching is the next most influential factor. Once again in a matchup that favored UNC on paper, the Tar Heels did not execute.

As Brown said Monday, “41 points should be enough to win a game.” So why wasn’t it? There are several reasons, but many of them point back to coaching decisions.

  • Why did a defensive player call a timeout?
  • Why was Rontavius Groves first punt return attempt of the season during a tied ballgame with two minutes left in the half?
  • What in the Wide World of Sports was that play call at the end of the first half?
  • With one linebacker getting four sacks in the game, why weren’t running backs or tight ends used more for pass protection?
  • Why did the blitzes continue with the lack of success on run defense?
  • Did no one else see the fake punt coming?

Brown provided the answer in his press conference:

We’ve got a young team, but they’ve got to quit making mistakes during the game. And that’s coaching. That’s something we have to do.

With another team on Saturday that the Tar Heels should handle, the X-Factor this week is coaching. Will the coaching staff make the necessary changes to avoid the type of problems that occured last week?

But once again, Brown provides insight into the previous question in his press conference. Brown said that games can be determined on seven to 10 plays. By eliminating the mistakes on those plays, a team can get the victory.

What if those mistakes come from the coaching staff? Do any of the questionable coaching decisions turn the three-point loss into a win? It is hard to say, but this four week roller coaster of football has been difficult to rationalize. It is easy for the keyboard warriors to criticize the coaching staff, especially when the no one outside of the Kenan Football Center see the preparation that goes into each week. Brown anticipated this criticism in his press conference, and shielded his staff from blame. Yet, they are the ones that must bear this burden. It is all part of the job.

In the spirit of a presidential election this week, the UNC coaching staff needs to be reminded of a phrase popularized by the 33rd President of the United States: The Buck Stops Here.