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Wednesday December 7th

'We’re going to lock in': UNC football talks accountability after App State game

Graduate student offensive lineman Ed Montilus (63) protects freshman quarterback Drake Maye (10) at the game versus Florida A&M at Kenan Stadium on Aug. 27. The Heels won 56-24.
Buy Photos Graduate student offensive lineman Ed Montilus (63) protects freshman quarterback Drake Maye (10) at the game versus Florida A&M at Kenan Stadium on Aug. 27. The Heels won 56-24.

Head coach Mack Brown has two rules following every North Carolina football game — the 24-hour window and accountable Sundays.

This first is largely self-explanatory. After every Tar Heel win or defeat, each player has 24 hours to celebrate or harp upon the result of the game. When that timetable expires, the focus immediately shifts to the next contest.

The initial step of this shift is where the second rule comes into play.

“We have a thing called ‘Accountable Sunday,’” Brown said. “We show the plays that somebody absolutely messed up and say, ‘You missed this tackle in this situation and if you make that tackle they’re off the field. You’ve got to cover better than this. You’re there, turn and knock the ball down.’”

Despite improving to 2-0 on the season with a 63-61 win over App State on Saturday, the mood amongst many Tar Heels — namely defensive players — wouldn’t suggest UNC is fresh off a victory. 

In the fourth quarter alone, the Mountaineers scored 40 points, racked up 338 total yards and earned 18 first downs. Just a mere glance at those stats sends an appalling wave through the Tar Heels’ defensive leaders.

We’re sick to our stomachs for giving up those numbers,” junior cornerback Tony Grimes said. “We’re pissed, but we’re going to lock in — we’re ready. We’re playing with a chip on our shoulder from here on out.”

Whether it was miscommunication within the UNC secondary or North Carolina’s inability to put pressure on quarterback Chase Brice, every mistake was exposed during the historic fourth quarter. By the end of the 15-minute period, App State was just nine points shy of the NCAA record for points scored in a single quarter. 

Junior defensive lineman Kaimon Rucker said this past Sunday wasn’t just a day to point out the plethora of mishaps made defensively, but also a time to review and reinforce the potential the defense has. 

“We got 61 dropped on our heads so, of course, there’s going to be a little bit of, ‘That shouldn’t have happened,’” he said. “We know the standard of where we need to play and we did not play to our standard. We know we need to step our game up.”

However, the defense wasn’t the only unit highlighted on Sunday. Offensively, the Tar Heels had lapses of their own, and redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye would be the first to say so. 

Rather than gloat about the 63 points put up by the Tar Heels, or the five touchdowns he accounted for, Maye harped on his missed throws and his inability to handle App State’s all-out blitz at times.

First-year running back George Pettaway burst onto the scene in his first two games in Chapel Hill — darting for touchdowns in both contests. However, the former four-star prospect knows the areas he needs to improve upon in order to establish himself as a collegiate running back. 

“I wasn’t doing (pass protection) in high school,” he said. “I’m really focusing on that and that’s one of my weaknesses. I have to get better at it so I can be an every-down back.”

Though the offense pointed out its own mistakes, the glaring problems in this year's UNC team so far lie with the defense. And to hear multiple defensive players tell it, they’re confident that improvements can be made through the sessions held at the beginning of each week. 

“We’re ready to go out there and showcase what we have,” senior defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly said. “What we put out there on the field in that fourth quarter wasn’t pretty and everybody wants to make that right.”  

@evanr0gers

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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