Yesterday at Coach Mack Brown’s press conference, he addressed some of the issues that contributed to the loss to Notre Dame, and what needed to change going forward. Here are the key takeaways.
Offense needs more out of the running game
Mack Brown isn’t blind. He can see that Drake Maye is leading UNC’s offense to huge numbers, both in passing yardage and points. He had particular praise for the red zone offense, an area of concern last year. Carolina is getting touchdowns instead of field goals when they get to the red zone now.
His main concern is how far behind the running game is lagging compared to the rest of the offense. He identified two areas. 1.) No running back has separated himself from the rest of the bunch where he feels that player can become the “main man” who the Heels ride when he’s hot. UNC has played at least four running backs consistently, trying to see who emerges. 2.) The running backs are not doing a good enough job on first down. Coach Brown said there is too much 1-yard gains or losses on first that lead to three-and-outs, which puts added pressure on the defense.
UNC needs to stop the run
Coach Brown spoke as plainly as possible about this when he said, “...Until we stop the run, we’re not going to win games at the highest level.” He lamented that Notre Dame was able to stop Carolina’s run game (67 total rushing yards), and the Irish ran the ball at will against the Tar Heels (289 yards, three touchdowns).
Coach Brown was realistic as to how much the defense could improve by the end of the season. He acknowledged that statistically, no matter what they do, they’ll be one of the worst defenses in the country because of the the numbers they’ve already posted four games into the season. But incremental improvement combined with UNC’s offense could get the team where they want to go by the end of the year. Coach Brown was pleased that some of his players were fighting with each other because they cared and competed, they didn’t quit. They just need to learn how to compete and communicate better.
More on the running game...
Mack Brown circled back on why Carolina needed to step up its running game later in his opening remarks and several times in response to reporters’ questions. The best teams in the country can all win games by being physical and running the ball. Right now, he’s not convinced that UNC can do that and they’ve won games with Drake Maye’s hot hand.
Coach Brown is concerned that the day will come when either a defense will be able to contain or shutdown the air attack, or Carolina will have a bad day at the office, and the entire time will sink as a result.
One doesn’t have to look much further than this Saturday. On paper, Carolina should beat a poor Virginia Tech team at home. Even after the Notre Dame loss, UNC opened as a 9-point favorite. But with Hurricane Ian threatening to dump rain in Chapel Hill on Saturday (plan for a wet afternoon if you’re going to the game) how much will Drake Maye be able to throw, if at all? UNC’s backs will be heavily relied on to move and score the ball.