CHAPEL HILL, N.C. –– This week is about turning a negative into a positive.
Those were the words of Mack Brown on Monday following Virginia’s 31-27 upset victory over his Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium Saturday night.
“I was very disappointed,” Brown said. “You sit there and wonder why you lost. And my job is to go back and figure out how we’re gonna come back and win.”
The HOF coach has suffered a lot of losses in his 50-year career, but this one stung a bit more, especially considering the relatively unexpected upwards trajectory of the program since his return to Chapel Hill.
But no one thought they would lose this one.
Prior to this game, I had this story prewritten. Seven down. Five to go. The Tar Heels were finally reaching new heights. They were on track to the big leagues, receiving national acclaim as they sat comfortably at No. 10 in the country.
But it was a position that didn’t last long. And it was a result that nobody expected. Virginia came into Kenan with the worst total offense, worst rushing offense and close to worst defense in the FBS. They were also 1-5.
It was a loss that plummeted the Tar Heels seven spots in the AP poll, effectively ending their six game win streak. It was the first time at home this season where an opponent scored on the first possession.
Now the Tar Heels face the challenge of keeping the bar high with their eyes still set on a repeat trip to the ACC championship game. Their dreams came crashing down in front of them last Saturday and with no more bye weeks on the schedule, the Tar Heels can’t afford to not push forward.
“I put tremendous pressure on myself to move forward and on Saturday we didn’t,” Brown said. “We took a step back.”
Nobody likes to lose, but Brown also said that games like this happen and with five games left he says that the team still has plenty to play for.
Quarterback Drake Maye says that on both sides of the ball, North Carolina must be clicking on all cylinders.
“We weren’t doing that on Saturday and it cost us,” he said.
With Georgia Tech next on the docket this weekend, the Tar Heels have a chance to redeem themselves and continue the climb, but if last season is any indicator, it’s that this team can’t fold under the pressure.
Will they? We’ll find out later this week.