It’s a full circle moment for Mack Brown. The last time the UNC football team was 4-0 in 1997, Brown was at the helm as part of his first stint in Chapel Hill.
But comfortability is equivalent to complacency for the head coach of 34 years, and a 4-0 start does not guarantee success in the games ahead.
After a bye week, the Tar Heels will host the Syracuse Orange in their second conference matchup. Here are three keys for UNC remaining undefeated:
Assistant head coach for defense Gene Chizik, along with his defensive squad, has come a long way since last season. By this point last year UNC had already given up 14 passing touchdowns. So far this year the Tar Heels have conceded just two.
A crucial piece in North Carolina's previous win over Pittsburgh was in-game defensive adjustments. After giving up 96 rushing yards on the first two drives, the defense was able to regroup to hold the Panthers to 14 rushing yards for the remainder of the game.
Instead of hitting the panic button – something that seemed to happen often last season – Chizik’s defense settled in, forced turnovers and reversed the momentum of the game.
“This year, there's a totally different approach,” senior linebacker and UNC’s leading tackler Cedric Gray said. “When something happens, we are coming back to the sidelines, we’re talking about it, we’re figuring out what happened and how we can adjust.”
The ability to calmly make defensive adjustments will be crucial going into the upcoming matchup against the Orange. The Tar Heel defense will continue to rely on veterans like junior defensive back Alijah Huzzie — who had an outstanding week against Pitt with two interceptions, a punt return touchdown and a pass breakup — as well as junior linebacker Power Echols and Gray as they take on a versatile Syracuse offense.