The Daily Tar Heel

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Thursday May 26th

Mack Brown faces familiar foe in Appalachian State this weekend

Mack Brown walks onto the field of the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, August 31, 2019. UNC beat South Carolina 24-20.
Buy Photos Mack Brown walks onto the field of the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC on Saturday, August 31, 2019. UNC beat South Carolina 24-20.

The North Carolina football team will face an unfamiliar foe in Appalachian State on Saturday, a team the Tar Heels have only played one time in their history. (In 1940, UNC throttled App State, 56-6.)

Head coach Mack Brown, though, is very familiar with the Mountaineers. Appalachian gave Brown his first ever head coaching job in 1983.

During Brown’s sole season in Boone, he led the Mountaineers to a 6-5 record before going to Oklahoma to become the offensive coordinator. But Boone left a lasting impression on Brown and his family.

Hugh Morton, who Brown referred to as a “mountain of a man” and an “entrepreneur for the state,” was Brown’s best friend while he was in Boone. Morton would frequently invite Brown to his house overlooking a 40-acre trout lake.

“I was making $38,500 as the head coach at Appalachian State,” Brown said “I hadn’t won a game, and I told Mr. Morton, ‘If I make some money, I’m going to live on this lake.’”

Around the same time Brown was hired by Texas in 1997 and making hundreds of thousands of dollars, he bought a house on that same lake and has lived there ever since.

Over the years, the Appalachian State football program has undergone a transformation. In 1997, the Mountaineers were still competing in the FCS and were members of the Southern Conference. Now, they are an FBS team and have won three straight Sun Belt Conference championships.

“To see what that program has turned into is really, really rewarding for me,” Brown said.

Appalachian State has established itself as one of the best Group of Five programs in the country and is known for being able to hang with larger programs. One of the most famous games in the program's history was the historic upset over a fifth-ranked Michigan team, 34-32, in 2007.

Brown said the Tar Heels are not looking past Appalachian State to a matchup with No. 1 Clemson, even suggesting that he believes the Mountaineers are good enough to play in the ACC.

“If you start looking at App State and what their seniors have accomplished the last few years,” Brown said, “It’s the best in our state.”

North Carolina must establish itself as the best team in North Carolina to get to where Brown wants it to be. Winning this weekend would be a step in the right direction. 

In order to beat Appalachian State, the Tar Heels will need to do something they haven’t yet had to this season: respond to a close loss. After falling 24-18 to Wake Forest last week, the team's toughness will be tested.

UNC responded in the later stages of that game, scoring 18 second-half points after being down 21-0 at halftime. This time, they will look to bounce back after having an entire week to think about a loss.

“You play South Carolina, you play Miami, you play Wake,” Brown said. “All three teams are very good, and you’ve got to play hard every week for us to have a chance to win. And this week will be no different.”

Make no mistake: despite a familiarity with the opposition, Brown will look to make sure that his current team, not his former one, walks out of Kenan Stadium with a victory.

@matt_chilson

@DTHSports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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