DG Gets Up Close And Personal With
Hall of Fame UNC Coach Mack Brown,
Who Again Has Heels In National Top 10

North Carolina football coach Mack Brown, who turned 72 years old in August, is already a member of the College Football Hall of Fame. He’s been the ACC coach of the year, the Big 12 coach of the year, and the national coach of the year.

At the end of his first tenure as UNC’s head coach, he led the Tar Heels to back-to-back national top-10 finishes in 1996 and 1997. Carolina’s 1997 team, which went 11-1 and finished #4 in the coaches poll, is regarded among the best in school history.

Brown won the 2005 national championship and had a lot of other amazing success while leading the Texas Longhorns, and he’s now in the fifth season of his second tenure in Chapel Hill, during which he has led the Heels to four straight bowl games and back into the national Top 25 (#17 finish in 2020; #10 this week).

The Tar Heels’ 6-0 start to this season is their first since 1997, when they reached 8-0 before losing to #3 Florida State. The remaining regular-season opponents for this year’s Heels are Virginia (1-5), Georgia Tech (3-3), Campbell (3-3), #16 Duke (5-1), Clemson (4-2) and NC State (4-3). The Georgia Tech, Clemson and NC State games are on the road.

Brown recently joined long-time sports journalist and award-winning broadcaster David Glenn for a one-on-one interview on the David Glenn Show, which is now part of the North Carolina Sports Network.

This is Part Two of their conversation. Click here for Part One.

DG: One more thing about Drake Maye. You and he both say that winning is the most important thing, and you’re still undefeated, so nobody can complain about that. But he was among the preseason Heisman Trophy favorites, and he doesn’t quite have the huge numbers that are needed to remain prominent in that season-long conversation. How have you and he talked about and handled that reality?

Brown: If you take his QBR rating, he’s actually playing better now (83.7 QBR, eighth nationally) than he was last year at this time (82.7 for the entire season, 10th nationally), so that’s what we do. We look at his production. We look at his leadership. We look at what he’s doing for this team.

Last year’s team, we’re barely beating App State, barely beating Georgia State. This year’s team has been pretty dominant. (UNC is the only FBS team that has beaten all five of its Power Five conference opponents by 10 points or more this season.) We’ve also had strong fourth quarters and a much tougher schedule than we had at this time this year.

We’re also running the ball better. We’re running the ball so much better, especially in the red zone, it takes up some of (Maye’s) touchdowns. (UNC running back Omarion Hampton is tied for the ACC lead with nine TDs.) We’ve had a number of plays where Drake makes a great pass but our guy is tackled at the one-yard line. We’re gonna run it in this year (from short yardage), whereas last year we might have thrown it in.

But the truth is, if we had won the last four games of the season last year, Drake would have been at the Heisman (ceremony) in New York, but we didn’t win those games. So it’s really about winning, and he knows that.

Drake is managing games as good as anyone I’ve ever seen right now, and his numbers will continue to get better. Now people have to be conscious about stopping the run, which opens up a lot of the passing lanes for us, and now they have to be conscious about stopping (previously ineligible wide receiver) Tez Walker, too.

DG: Last year, UNC went 6-0 in its true road games for the first time in program history. That is an amazing accomplishment, no doubt, but all six of those wins were one-possession games at the end, which can be nerve-wracking. As you mentioned, this year’s team has dominated almost everyone on its schedule so far, with five double-digit victories over your Power Five opponents. What is behind that next step, where you are winning so convincingly now?

Brown: David, it’s a great question. I talked all spring about good-to-great, and then we didn’t play great against App State (a 40-34 Carolina win in double overtime).

So I told ‘em, I’m gonna quit talking about that, because you’re not great. We’re a good team, but we’ve gotta play great to win right now, and what you (the UNC players) have gotta do, you gotta prove it to me first. I see you more than anybody else, so if I don’t think you’re great…

People said Pitt (on the road) was a trap game. I said, you gotta be a great team to have a trap game. We’re not even that. We gotta play good (to win), and they get that now. These guys are older now.

Everybody on defense, except the two cornerbacks, has played a lot of football. We’ve played some bad defense around here the last four years. They’ve had some good moments, but we’ve had some bad defense. Against Pitt, after those first two drives, we played great defense. That’s what we’ve gotta do every week. We forced three turnovers, didn’t give up one.

Offensively, we are running the ball consistently better. We didn’t at times (in some games this season), and that bothers us. We gotta do that. We’ve had to go back and do some hard self-evaluations to fix some of the things that we weren’t doing well.

At times, we have been great in the kicking game or awful. (Against Pitt), we return a punt for a touchdown but give up a kick for a touchdown. So, again, those are things that need to be fixed.

I think, more than anything else right now, that’s who we are. We’re an older, experienced football team at just about every position. We have more depth than we’ve had in the past, at just about every position. That gave us a chance to get behind at Pitt and not panic and come back and still win.

So this team’s kinda been-there, done-that. They don’t want it to come down to the last drive every game, like we did against App State this year. I think we did that maybe nine out of 12 games last year. We like it better this way.

DG: You’ve had a three-game homestand here at midseason, with Syracuse, Miami and now Virginia. What has been your message to Tar Heel Nation for these games at Kenan Stadium?

Brown: Well, there’s not a lot of teams out there that are undefeated, especially with a schedule as hard as we’ve played. So the best way you (as UNC fans) can reward these guys is come to the game, get there early, and show ‘em how proud you are.

We need our fans to bring it. They keep saying your football program is only as good as the commitment from your university and the commitment from your fans, so we need our fans to continue to step up and be really strong.

DG: OK, Coach. We’ll get you outta here with some lightning-round questions, some personal things just to continue to get to know you a little better. Short answers here.

We are one of the only states in the entire country that has great beach houses, mountain houses and lake houses. If you can have only one of the three, which is your pick?

Brown: Sally would go to the beach first, and I would go to the mountains first.

DG: All-time favorite family trip beyond the United States.

Brown: We went to Dubai, spent a week there, and it was really cool.

DG: Favorite bands or musicians.

Brown: Eric Church, Luke Combs … in-state guys. George Strait. Those guys are the best.

DG: Favorite actor, actress, author or artist. Any one of those.

Brown: Probably Matthew McConaughey. He and I have a charity together out in Austin (Texas). I love his work, but I love him even more as a friend.

DG: Finally, a food question. Our foundational partner here at the new North Carolina Sports Network is the North Carolina Pork Council. What would be your pick among bacon, pork chops, eastern-style BBQ, western-style BBQ or any other pork product?

Brown: David, I was entirely too heavy, and I just lost a lot of weight, but it’s obvious that I like all pork!

Hah! I was going to commend you for that, Coach. You look great, and you sound great as well. Thank you, as always, for your time here on the David Glenn Show, and really for your time going back 37 years now. Congratulations on your team’s amazing start, and we look forward to catching up with you again down the road.

Brown: Thank you, David. Thanks for having me on, and good luck with your new venture.

David Glenn (DavidGlennShow.com@DavidGlennShow) is an award-winning author, broadcaster, editor, entrepreneur, publisher, speaker, writer and university lecturer (now at UNC Wilmington) who has covered sports in North Carolina since 1987.