LIVE UPDATES: News & Notes From Mack Brown’s Press Conference to Begin Duke Week – 247Sports

  • October 10, 2022

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — North Carolina coach Mack Brown met with reporters Monday for his first media availability of the week that leads to Saturday night’s game at Duke, another ACC contest on the road for the Tar Heels.
UNC (5-1 overall, 2-0 ACC) is coming off its 27-24 victory at Miami, a win not without late-game dramatics, which moved the Tar Heels to 3-0 on the road this season. Drake Make threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns, and UNC made do during the second half with Noah Burnette’s pair of field goals accounting for all of its scoring. DeAndre Boykins’ interception with eight seconds remaining cemented it for North Carolina, whose defense came up with timely stops in critical moments.
Duke (4-2, 1-1) presents a third straight ACC Coastal Division matchup for the Tar Heels, and their fourth straight opponent under a first-year coach. Mike Elko’s Blue Devils fell 23-20 at Georgia Tech in overtime during the weekend. That loss gave UNC sole possession of the early lead atop the division.
Here are our running notes from what Brown said Monday at Kenan Football Center …
— Defensive tackle Ray Vohasek and safety Don Chapman are out this week due to upper-body injuries. Neither were available for the Miami game. Offensive lineman William Barnes (upper-body injury) and linebacker RaRa Dillworth (concussion) will be evaluated during the week and their availability for the Duke game is to be determined.
Barnes, the Tar Heels’ starter at right guard, exited at Miami because of the injury, and backup Jonathan Adorno played the remainder of that game in his place. Dillworth hasn’t played since getting hurt Sept. 24 against Notre Dame.
— Running back British Brooks, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in August during preseason training camp, wants to return and play next season, Brown said. The fifth-year senior Brooks entered the preseason as UNC’s presumed starter at running back.
— UNC players of the game from the victory at Miami: Boykins (defense), running back Caleb Hood (offense), walk-on Jake Harkleroad (special teams). “He just continues to play at a high level,” Brown said of Boykins. “He practices and plays with a passion, and it’s fun to watch him.” Defensive end Des Evans and defensive tackle Kevin Hester Jr. were recognized as standout contributors on defense. UNC linebackers Cedric Gray and Power Echols could hold that sort of distinction nearly every week, Brown said.
Barnes and offensive lineman Spencer Rolland were recognized as standout contributors on offense. Tight end John Copenhaver and receivers Antoine Green and J.J. Jones did a good job with downfield blocking, Brown said. UNC teammates love Harkleroad’s passion, Brown said. Special teams ace Obi Egbuna had three tackles at Miami and walk-on Jalen Brooks continues to be a key contributor on special teams, Brown said.
— Brown said UNC ran the ball better at Miami, but still not as consistently as he wants, particularly in the team’s four-minute package on offense. Hood (13 carries, 74 yards), Maye (14 carries, 53 yards) and Omarion Hampton (15 carries, 36 yards) produced a combined 163 rushing yards on 42 carries.
— Brown said UNC’s defense did a tremendous job stopping the run against Virginia Tech and Miami across the last two games. “We’ve said we’ve got to be great at something,” he said. Miami’s 41 rushing yards — the Hurricanes ran for just 7 yards in the second half — marked the fewest the Tar Heels have allowed on the ground since holding Virginia to 24 rushing yards in September of last season.
— Brown said UNC gave up entirely too many passing yards at Miami. Tyler Van Dyke threw for 496 yards, the second-most in Miami school history, and three touchdowns. Van Dyke finished 42-of-57, the most completions by an ACC player since 2017. But Brown said if a defense is to allow a lot of one or the other, statistics say stopping the run is preferred.
— “The goal-line stand was a thing of beauty,” Brown said of UNC’s defense stuffing Miami once from the 2-yard line, then three times from the 1 in the first half. “This was a great goal-line stand, not a good goal-line stand. It was huge.” Brown said another pivotal sequence was the Tar Heels’ response on defense after Maye threw an interception to start the second half. Boykins sacked Van Dyke on fourth-and-3 at midfield.
— Brown used “just a game of inches” to emphasize the importance of Gray’s sideline tackle on Miami tight end Jaleel Skinner that kept Skinner inbounds during the game’s final 15 seconds and kept the clock running. That tackle was followed by Kaimon Rucker getting a piece of Van Dyke’s pass that Boykins intercepted to clinch the game. “That was a huge play by Kaimon Rucker on the Boykins interception.”
— Brown commended UNC’s defense for allowing a total of seven points during the second halves of the last two games. “That’s a big change for our defense,” he said. Miami went 5-for-14 on converting third downs and 3-for-6 on fourth downs. “That’s like three turnovers,” Brown said. “Going for fourth down is cool, but you’ve got to make it.”

— Brown said “we’re in a different place without Jonathan Kim” handling kickoffs. Kim left the UNC program two weeks ago and intends to transfer to a team that will use him in place-kicking duties. “We kicked all the balls out (of the end zone) and now we’re not,” Brown said. “We’re having to cover now and teams know that.” He said the Tar Heels need improved punting and coverage on punt returns, as they’re losing field position in that area of the game.
— “This will be an exciting week,” Brown said. “Duke week always is.” Elko knows the game of football well, Brown said, calling the Duke coach one of the best defensive coordinators in the country when he was an assistant coach at Wake Forest and Texas A&M. Brown said he was told Monday morning that only 1,000 tickets remain available for the game at Duke’s Wallace Wade Stadium on Saturday night.
— Brown said Elko appears to have Duke playing with confidence. The Blue Devils already have exceeded their win total from last season, when they went 3-8 overall and 0-8 in the ACC during the last of former coach David Cutcliffe’s 14 seasons in charge. Brown said Duke is generating a productive running game, and he has been impressed with the Blue Devils on special teams.
— Brown said when backups such as UNC reserve defensive linemen Keeshawn Silver, Jacolbe Cowan and Kedrick Bingley-Jones receive playing time in games and turn those opportunities into useful contributions, it builds a sense of growth and positive momentum for the players. “We all need a purpose,” Brown said. “They come into the meeting room with a smile. They come in excited and they’re proud.” Brown pointed out that Vohasek arguably has been the Tar Heels’ best defensive lineman and Myles Murphy played a limited number of snaps at Miami.
— Brown said he worried some during the pregame at Miami because he thought the UNC team “was a little flat.” But he said his coaching staff had instructed the Tar Heels not to expend too much energy before the game, given the heat and humidity of South Florida, and the toll those conditions could take throughout the game. “I just think this is a team that, unlike last year’s, is a team that likes to play and likes each other,” Brown said of the Tar Heels. “Last year’s team was hard. You just never knew who was going to show up.”
— Brown reiterates his belief in coordinator Gene Chizik as the right leader for UNC’s defense. “He’s got the perfect temperament for our defense right now,” Brown said. “He’s confident. He’s not a screamer or a yeller, but a motivator. As tough as some of those (earlier) games were, he’d go in there and pick them up. … That’s why these kids are believing and getting better.” Brown said Gray made the same winning type of tackle in practice two days before the Miami victory, keeping an offensive player in bounds during a late-game drill, just as the did against the Hurricanes in the closing seconds. “Ced Gray holding the guy inbounds was not an accident, that’s coaching,” Brown said.
— UNC’s monster 18-play, 81-yard scoring drive in the fourth quarter at Miami that ended with Burnette’s chip-shot field goal drained 8:21 off the game clock. The Tar Heels could’ve melted even more time had they not snapped the ball on a number of plays with 12 seconds or 14 seconds left on the play clock. Brown said Saturday at Hard Rock Stadium he told offensive coordinator Phil Longo to use as much time as possible before snapping the ball as the drive grew longer and UNC moved toward the Miami goal line.
“The thing I’m going to suggest to Phil is that he gets the play in later” to Maye and the offense on the field, Brown said, for other similar situations as the Tar Heels move forward. Brown said scoring a touchdown in that moment would’ve registered as more important than exhausting the clock, and UNC ’s offense is designed to move rapidly from play to play. “It’s something we’ve got to look at,” Brown said.
— Brown compared Maye’s 15-yard touchdown pass to Josh Downs late in the first half, with Miami defensive lineman Akeem Mesidor latched on and pulling Maye down, to a special play befitting an elite quarterback such as Patrick Mahomes of the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs. “He thinks that’s normal,” Brown said of Maye. “He doesn’t give himself any credit. Then he beats himself up.”
Brown said Maye can be too critical of himself for mistakes. Maye threw two interceptions at Miami, and later remarked to reporters that it seemed as if he only had thrown for 98 yards during the game, rather than 300-plus yards for the fourth time in six starts this season. “Drake is like me,” Brown said. “I’m way too hard on myself and that’s not a healthy thing sometimes. … We have to be careful with Drake.”
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