Assistant Sports Editor Hunter Nelson: I'm doing well. Thank you so much for having us today. I'm so excited to get started this year with all the great content that we're going to provide. To introduce myself real quickly, I'm a senior from Detroit, Michigan, something I wear with pride. So, I won't talk about that too much. But that's neither here nor there. And I'm really excited to get started this year.
Assistant Sports Editor Jeremiah Holloway: I also am a senior. I'm from Greensboro, North Carolina. I'm really excited to work with these gentlemen here and just yeah having fun talking about UNC athletics and really get into it.
PM: Yeah, a little bit about me. I am from Miami, Florida. I'm a junior here at UNC. And I also love talking about sports and the fact that I'm from Miami. Alright, y'all, let's jump into it. First off, UNC football. It was an eventful weekend. 17-10 loss to Virginia Tech to start the season off. One word to describe the season, Hunter. I'll let you take it away first.
HN: Yeah, I think the word I would probably say is “startling.” And when I say startling, I don't mean the result, because I think UNC was only what favored by five and a half points, which is it's sort of weird to think.
PM: The only top 10 team to on the one hand be like, "Oh yeah, they’re top 10 quality,” but then on the other hand, "Oh, they could they could lose to the fourth best team in the coastal division of the ACC."
HN: It was startling to me. Not the result, but just the fact that the very first glimpse of college football that we've seen this year is 70,000 fans at Lane Stadium, and you hear "Enter Sandman" just pumping. I think you even saw Mack Brown sort of like adjust his headset like "What are we doing here?" But just as the game went on, I thought it was also startling the way the quarterback play was, you know. I think the top 10 ranking this year was so determined on Sam Howell being that Heisman candidate that a lot of people expected him to be, but to come in and probably have him play his worst game and a Carolina uniform, one touchdown, three picks, only game in his career that he was under 100 passer rating. I thought that was startling. And even the offensive line play. I thought that was going to be one of the strong aspects of the team this season. Yeah, a lot of veterans and even though senior center Brian Anderson was out, so I think that had something to do with it, why they gave up six sacks. They did look really out of sorts. But it was startling to see that.
PM: Jeremiah, one word.
JH: The one word I would use is “disappointing.” And the reason I would use that word is because you had a team coming in, I understand they're on the road, I understand that it's a packed stadium. But to come in as the number ten team only post 10 points. That's incredibly disappointing. To have your quarterback unfortunately, and for whatever reason, turn the ball over three times. Either way that goes, that's going to be disappointing. Not a lot of great options in the receiving game. Of course, the defense got carved up in the beginning and even though they only gave up 17 points, like I said they often struggle mightily. So, I think it was a disappointing start to what was supposed to be, I guess, a resurgence or a continued resurgence for UNC football.
PM: What was supposed to be the most hyped season in UNC’s last decade or so of history. The word I'm using is “rattled.” I think the whole scenario was rattling. Mack looked rattled at the end of the game. Sam, first play of the game, pass, you know, two feet over the receiver’s head. I mean, that didn't look like the Sam Howell you know. And of course, Sam Howell is mister fourth quarter and whatever really, and even then that last interception was arguably the worst throw of his career at UNC up to now. So, what went wrong I think we've ascertained. What we're missing is a little bit of the Big Four from last year. Obviously, the receiving corps of Dyami Brown and Dazz Newsome, running back core of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter, obviously all headed to greener pastures in the NFL. As of right now over 4000 yards of total offense lost. What did you notice on those ends in their new forms?
HN: Well, I mean, if we're looking at the stats, and I mean, I'm not really big on stats, it's all about watching the game.
PM: Stats are for casuals. Yeah, you know, you watch the game. Eye test.
HN: Watching the game is very important. But when you look at the stats, UNC was a top five offense in the country last year, and they laid a goose egg in the first half, and that's pretty noticeable when you look at that. And like you mentioned the Big Four, they weren't there. And they're not going to be there this entire season. So, a lot of other guys will have to step up. I know there are a few times especially in where it was third and short, like third and fourth midfield, and in years past you could just hand the ball off to you know Michael and Javonte and they could bust through and get you 10 yards, get those first downs, but that wasn't happening on Friday night. And then even like on the receiving game. There are so many times in years past Dyami Brown would get in the backfield or get behind his defender I should say and be able to break free and win those 50/50 balls and that wasn't happening on Friday either. So, they need to find a way to replicate that talent that they lost and it's still a long season I think they'll definitely have a chance to get there but it's going to need to come fast if they want to, sort of, fulfill the goals that they've set out.
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PM: Yeah and Jeremiah, obviously looking at Ty Chandler, the heir apparent to the Michael/Javonte duo in the backfield didn't look all that stellar in his first game. What were your thoughts on his performance?
JH: Yeah, I agree. I mean, you're talking about someone who only really got 66 rush yards, didn't put points on the board. And going off the point that Hunter was making of the yardage that this team lost, they lost 48 touchdowns, those four combined for 48 all-purpose touchdowns offensively. So, Ty Chandler of course being the top back now, because there's not that same tandem right of, of Javonte and Michael Carter it’s really you know, he's like the main guys, so I think that he's going to have to do more than 66 yards every week to really even try to make up some of that ground. Of course, it was just one game, but especially if the receiving corps isn't as strong as you saw against Virginia Tech. So yeah, I definitely think that Ty Chandler is going to have to carry a bigger load now that he's the scent the centerpiece of that backfield.
PM: Yeah, and when you look at the schedule now, obviously, Georgia State coming up, first at-home game, September 11. A lot of teams first week typically pick an easier choice. Sometimes that backfires, in the case of Vanderbilt-ETSU 23 to three loss in the SEC, Montana-Washington, we saw that (arguably one of the biggest upsets in college football history last week).UNC going with a little bit of a harder choice: Virginia Tech, Lane Stadium, a nice place to play. Got something easier coming up this week. What do you think that kind of choice of a first game, Jeremiah?
JH: You know, honestly, I was thinking that same thing, too. But, when I looked at the schedule, of course, you have Georgia State this week, but then there's five conference games right after it. So, I don't know, maybe there is some sort of strategy to just starting bold. I think maybe they expect more from themselves in the first game. Of course, like, like you said, it's not the easiest place to play. But if you're ranked, you know, in the top 10 going as an unranked team, maybe they didn't perceive it to be as much of a challenge as it proved to be. Not that thought it was going to be easy game, but they didn't think there's going to be as much as challenges proved to be. But yeah, like I said, they have a lot more conference games coming up after it. So yeah, that was a definitely an interesting choice. And not completely sure what all went into that, but I imagined that there was a somewhat of a factor of, you know, the level of competition that they were expecting to get on our thoughts on starting the season at Lane Stadium.
JH: Yeah, so with it being an ACC conference game, I'm not really sure how much input Mack Brown and the coaching staff had in making that decision. But, you know, coming against Georgia State week two, you can sort of tell that they wanted to ease their way into the season. But when the schedule was released, I think it was in January, UNC definitely wasn't getting any favors there. But when you look at the schedule, as you mentioned, the next four weeks, are sort of winnable games for UNC, who are now ranked 24th in the country, so they can have a chance to get back on track before they sort of head into the bulk of their schedule. But it was interesting to start off at Lane Stadium with it really being the first big college football game of the year. It was an eventful one, but I think it's something that could help the Tar Heels moving forward.
PM: Jeremiah, does this make Georgia State a must-watch game for UNC fans?
JH: You know, I don't know that it makes it a must watch game. It will be a very much watched game given that it's the first home game and it's supposed to be packed in there. But no, I think that it is something that fans should pay attention. We need to get one in the win column. So, yeah, I think fans will definitely be paying attention to that, but I'm not sure if it's a must-watch game.
PM: Yeah. And if you listen to the pressers from this week, I mean, Mack saying stuff like, "You know, this takes some of the pressure off. Now, we're not pressured to be this perfect team." Sam’s saying, "Oh, you know, I think that, some teams bounce back from this kind of thing. Some teams fall. I think we're going to bounce back." There's clearly some hope in the locker room, especially after such a devastating loss, it's hard to find a lot of that hope if you're a fan, I guess. But where does this leave UNC now in kind of the greater picture? I mean, when you think about a team that was supposed to be challenging for the ACC crown losing to a team that wasn't projected to come anywhere near the ACC crown? What's the thought? Is it still a major bowl game? Still pushing for the playoff? What is in y’all’s mind?
HN: Well, I mean, when you look at the state of college football, and I think this is just natural overreaction across the country. There's some people who say, "Oh, the season's over," and then there's some people like "Oh, you know, maybe the season is not over." Right? But with the state of the ACC and college football, any team can still technically win out and then win their respective conference championship game, and there will likely be a spot in the playoffs for them. That team on Friday that you saw doesn't have the juice to do that, you know, I mean. If we're talking about other teams, like, you know, Rutgers can go undefeated, and they can make the college football playoff if we're keeping it honest, if we're talking about winning every game, I mean, that's the formula. So, it really just depends on what side you look at. Can that team in particular that we saw on Friday do that? I think right now the answer is no. But like I said, only time will tell.
JH: Yeah, when you look at what happened last week, eight ranked teams lost in that first week. Obviously, some of those teams played against each other. But, nonetheless, eight teams did lose. I think that this loss for UNC will be something that, you know, will be looked at when it's time to decide the college football playoff. Obviously, losing your first game to an unranked opponent is not a good look. So, we'll see how that allows them to get into playoffs. Maybe they get a good bowl game? I'm not really sure; kind of like what Hunter was saying there, it is pretty easy to overreact to a first game. It is pretty easy to draw a lot of conclusions, but at the same time, I think you know, you kind of have to see how these things take shape. But yeah, honestly, things are not trending in the right direction. So, we'll see how Mack Brown and company takes the season from here.
PM: Yeah, it's going to be an interesting one — Sam Howell Heisman race up in the air, UNC playoff push up in the air. Lots of questions to consider coming up to Georgia State.
Well, thank you all so much for listening to the first episode of the Hark the Pod podcast, the official sports podcast of the Daily Tar Heel. I am PJ Morales, alongside Hunter Nelson and Jeremiah Holloway. See you soon.
This episode was produced by Levi Pitts. Supervising producers were Audio Editor Leo Culp, Multimedia Managing Editor Alex Berenfeld and Editor-in-Chief Praveena Somasundaram.