After the North Carolina football team’s historic six-overtime loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, Mack Brown and his coordinators discussed the team’s mistakes, and how to address them, during their weekly Monday press conference.
One big change made to address those mistakes: a new starting kicker, first-year Jonathan Kim. He'll be replacing sophomore Noah Ruggles, who went 2-4 on field goal attempts on Saturday, one of which was knocked down by the Hokie defense.
“We’re 10-of-16 on field goals with three of those being blocked,” Brown said. “But still, we’ve got to do a better job. When we get down to that last-second kick, we’ve got to make it."
The end of the game was heartbreaking for Brown, even though he told his wife, Sally, that he wouldn’t hurt so bad after losses anymore. He broke that promise on Saturday.
"Saturday night was one of the toughest losses that I’ve ever been around," Brown said. "I went back and thought about it, and there’s probably three (tough losses), and this one is as tough as any of them because we had opportunities to win it with one play four or five times, and when you do that, you’ve got to finish them.”
Whether it was the spoiled drive at the end of regulation, the missed field goal in triple overtime or an inability to stop Virginia Tech on fourth-and-three in the second overtime, UNC just couldn’t get it done.
Brown undoubtedly would’ve wanted a lot of things during the six overtimes to go differently. Prior to the botched field goal attempt, UNC was called for a questionable holding call that made the kick much more difficult.
“When we got the holding call, it puts us in a position where now we're trying to get yards to get back to a better field goal,” Brown said. “So that was a killer.”
Still, UNC had plenty of other opportunities to escape with a win. Started in the fifth overtime, the two teams had to trade off two-point conversion attempts, shootout style, until a winner was decided. The Tar Heels failed to convert on both of their chances.
“When you’re in the ballgame, touchdowns are important and we’re going to call the very best play that we have on the rack,” offensive coordinator Phil Longo said. “You get to the point in five overtimes where you’re running out of two-point plays, and that’s kind of where we were.”
After quarterback Sam Howell was wrapped up on UNC's attempt in the sixth overtime, the Hokies ran the ball in from three yards out to seal a 43-41 win, leaving Brown and his players searching for answers moving forward. The Tar Heels face Duke on Saturday, then Virginia next week – both crucial matchups if they want a chance at winning the ACC Coastal Division.
For now, though, while Brown is focused on fixing the mistakes that the Tar Heels are making on the field, he’s also looking at all of the positives that have come out of this season already. The Hall of Fame coach may want to win right away, but he also has an eye on the future of the program.
“We’re going to be good,” Brown said. “We’re going to be really good. This train is taking off, and I’m really excited about where we’re going."
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