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'Just devastated’: UNC football left with unanswered questions following Georgia Tech loss

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UNC junior defensive lineman Jahvaree Ritzie (5) walks off the field as Georgia Tech fans rush from the stands after the football game at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 28, 2023. UNC fell to Georgia Tech 46-42.

ATLANTA — Too many questions, not enough answers.

Standing in a makeshift postgame press conference in the Georgia Tech football team’s weight room, head coach Mack Brown took the podium following the No. 17 Tar Heels’ 46-42 loss to the Yellow Jackets.

On a night where North Carolina blew a double-digit, second-half lead to an unranked team with a losing record for the second straight week — surrendering 22 points in the fourth quarter — Brown couldn’t provide much explanation for UNC's defensive performance after the game. 

“I told the guys I can’t answer what happened right now,” Brown said. “I’ll watch it on the plane going home, we’ll adjust and see what part of that’s coaching and what part of that’s their responsibility. Don’t point fingers, everybody else will.”

So, what led to Georgia Tech successfully rushing for 246 yards in the fourth quarter?

“I don’t know, I gotta watch the video,” Brown replied. “If I had known, I would’ve been able to help [the defense] adjust.”

What does Brown think the mood of the team is now? No hesitation here:

“They’re crushed. I gotta pick ‘em up. That’s the thing, everybody will be down on them.”

As the Yellow Jackets iced the game with one final first down, quarterback Drake Maye could only watch from the sidelines. He raised his helmet, briefly paused, and threw it on the ground with both hands. To his left, sophomore offensive tackle Diego Pounds took off his own helmet and dropped to a crouch.

It’s all so confounding to a team that was undefeated and ranked No. 10 just two weeks ago. With each inexplicable loss, UNC’s season-long goal of winning a conference title is becoming more and more of a distant reality.

Unlike in the interviews following the Virginia loss, this time there was no mention of the words "ACC Championship."

“[We’re] just devastated,” Maye said. “We work so hard, we love each other, we’re playing for each other — it’s all we got. It felt like we had something good going. Still got a lot to play for, you never know what can happen.”

Last season, North Carolina earned its first ACC Championship appearance since 2015. With wide receiver Tez Walker getting injured after a hard hit in the fourth quarter and a defense that seems to be regressing back to its notoriously self-destructive form of recent seasons, it’s uncertain at best as to whether or not UNC will make it back to Charlotte in December.

But senior linebacker Cedric Gray is confident that the team will “figure it out.”

“We are not gonna end this season like we did last year,” he said. “We are not doing that, I can promise that.”

However, now that the Tar Heels have fallen to fourth in ACC play with just three conference games remaining — including two tough road matchups at Clemson and N.C. State — the odds look even less favorable.

So while technically, Gray’s promise could still be kept, the Tar Heels first have to figure out what went wrong. And that’s something that no one — not even some of the Tar Heels themselves — seem to know for sure.

@danielhwei

@dthsports | sports@dailytarheel.com

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Daniel Wei

Daniel Wei is a 2023-24 assistant sports editor at The Daily Tar Heel. He has previously served as a senior writer. Daniel is a junior pursuing a double major in business administration and economics.