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Preview: UNC football team looks to avoid another trap-game against Georgia Tech

20221119 - UNC FOOTBALL VS. GEORGIA TECH

UNC redshirt first-year quarterback Drake Maye (10) dives toward the end zone during the football game against Georgia Tech on Saturday, Nov. 19, 2022 in Kenan Stadium. UNC fell to Georgia Tech 21-17.

Back in 2005, Mack Brown’s poisonous cheese mantra worked.

His then-No. 2 ranked Texas Longhorns avoided the upset in a trap game against unranked rival Texas A&M. 

But fast forward 18 years, and it’s a different story. No matter how hard Brown tried during the week to warn his North Carolina team not to eat the poisonous cheese, he wasn’t able to replicate what he did at Texas. 

On Saturday night, the perfect season for the Tar Heels came crashing down in a trap-game loss against Virginia.

North Carolina took a day to dwell on what happened against the Cavaliers ahead of preparation for Georgia Tech, using the same mindset that they have carried throughout the season — the 24-hour rule. One day to bask in a win — or in this case, a loss.

“Everyone was upset, frustrated, mad,” junior tight end John Copenhaver said. “We took Sunday and we dealt with it, watched film and put that to bed and now we’re on to Georgia Tech.” 

Following what was one of UNC's worst losses since Brown’s return to Chapel Hill, North Carolina will need to get back on track in practice this week, starting with getting over the mental hump that is Georgia Tech. 

“Everybody thinks we've got Miami's number because we've beaten them five [games] in a row,” Brown said. “Well, Georgia Tech's had North Carolina's number, and before I got here [they had our number] in Atlanta, so that makes this a game that people should project that we lose, period.”

The team set a goal to win the ACC title ahead of the season, and that is still in reach for this team. North Carolina knows that Georgia Tech is just the first step in getting back on track.

“I would say a lot of the guys are a lot more focused, a lot more vocal,” graduate defensive back Armani Chatman said. “It’s definitely, like, no lackadaisical stuff going on, man.”

In practice this week, Brown said he will assess the run game — an area that North Carolina seemingly strayed away from in the second half against Virginia. Entering the season, Brown and offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey’s emphasis was on “running the damn ball,” something the Tar Heels will need to focus on against the Yellow Jackets.

Georgia Tech currently ranks last in the ACC in run defense, and, in order to come out on top, North Carolina will need to exploit this weakness and get the ball to sophomore running back Omarion Hampton. Last week, Hampton carried the ball just five times in the second half despite averaging 7.2 yards per carry on those attempts. 

“Omarion’s one of our better players,” Lindsey said. “I think the key to always playing good offense is to get your playmakers the ball.” 

But the road is tough, and the team knows that Georgia Tech isn’t a pushover. Just two weeks ago, it was the Yellow Jackets that spoiled Miami’s undefeated season in the closing seconds of the fourth quarter.

And heading into this weekend’s matchup with Georgia Tech, senior linebacker Cedric Gray’s message remains the same.

“I said this last week, and I’m gonna say it again this week: we cannot look at records,” Gray said. “That doesn’t mean anything, there are talented people on every team. So obviously, Georgia Tech having our number, obviously, they were kind of the start to the crash of our season last year — It’s a lot of built up, maybe anger.”

@mdmaynard74

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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