ATLANTA (AP) — North Carolina coach Mack Brown is concerned about a letdown after a narrow loss to the nation's No. 1 team last week.
Heading into Saturday's game at struggling Georgia Tech, Brown's mindset might sound unusual for a team that's dropped three straight games, but the Tar Heels nearly toppled Clemson, and Brown is trying to build some momentum in his first season back in Chapel Hill.
North Carolina (2-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) lost by one point, a performance that caused Clemson, the defending national champion, to drop one spot in the Top 25, but Brown doesn't want to give his team too much credit.
"I think the thing that you look at is if we lay down and don't play after this, then we didn't learn," he said. "If we use it again to continue to grow and build, then we really learned something."
Georgia Tech (1-3, 0-1) is in rebuilding mode and has the nation's lowest-scoring offense under first-year coach Geoff Collins, whose team has lost two in a row and took another step back in last week's 24-2 defeat at Temple.
Some other things to know when the Tar Heels visit Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday:
The Yellow Jackets' pass defense ranks fifth in the country and it will need another strong performance against Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell, a freshman who has 18 passes of at least 20 yards.
"At some point in every game, he has thrown it over the secondary's head," Georgia Tech defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker said. "So they've been able to establish the run, establish the run, go fast, max protect and then Howell's had a chance to take shots."
WHO'S UNDER CENTER?
The Jackets may go with a third starting quarterback if redshirt James Graham gets the nod over Tobias Oliver. Graham flashed some promise last week, but not enough to win the job outright. Regardless who starts with Lucas Johnson nursing an injury for the second straight game, Georgia Tech is having trouble moving the chains.
Averaging just 13.5 points per game and ranking sixth-worst in passing offense, the Jackets lost their leading receiver, Jamal Camp, and starting center Kenny Cooper to season-ending surgeries this week. This will mark Georgia Tech's fifth different starting five on the offensive line this season.
North Carolina right tackle Charlie Heck is proud his team isn't getting penalized as much this season. The Tar Heels rank 13th in fewest penalty yards per game a year after finishing 72nd. They ranked No. 122 two years ago.
"That was a huge focus in the offseason," Heck told reporters this week. "We knew that was one of our problems the past two years - hurting ourselves. You never want to have a good play and get it taken back."
DOWN TO THE WIRE
When the Tar Heels were stopped with 1:17 to go last week, it marked their fifth straight game decided in the final five minutes.
They were 2-0 after holding off South Carolina and Miami. They've lost three straight by an average of 3.3 points. Brown doesn't care how North Carolina gets the job done as long as it comes out with a victory.
"I'd like to see our team win," Brown said. "Period."
HE'D DO IT AGAIN
Brown had no regrets deciding to go for 2 on the final offensive snap against Clemson.
"We're going to be aggressive," he said. "I'm at a stage in my life where I don't care about anything but winning and doing it within the rules. So if anybody wants to criticize me, who cares? I don't care. I'm not looking for another job."