North Carolina coach Mack Brown didn’t sugarcoat the sting of losing the longest game in ACC history.
Brown, recaped the 43-41 overtime loss that went to six overtimes in his weekly press conference on Monday, and called it one of the “toughest losses” in a career that spans four-plus decades.
“I did break my promise to [wife] Sally — I promised her that I wouldn’t hurt so bad after losses — and that’s not my makeup,” Brown said. “I can’t do that. That sounded really good and I thought, ‘Yeah, I’ll handle that and do it,’ but losing still stinks; it hasn’t changed since I’ve been out five years.”
When Brown rewatched the game on Sunday, he had a hard time getting through the team’s numerous missed opportunities particularly in overtime.
North Carolina missed two field goals after the end of regulation including a 35-yarder that would have won the game in the third overtime. The Tar Heels got the ball down to Tech’s 7-yard line, but a holding penalty on the play helped stall the drive.
They also couldn’t capitalize when they had Tech facing a fourth-and-3 at the 18-yard line leading 41-34 — quarterback Quincy Patterson threw an 18-yard touchdown to Damon Hazelton, a play that Brown described as a “gutsy play call” — and when the Hokies failed on their first two-point conversion attempt in the fifth overtime.
Running back Michael Carter was stopped in the backfield for a loss by Khalil Ladler on UNC’s game-winning attempt.
“On their way home Saturday night, they were devastated,” Brown said of his players. ...They were whipped. They ere just, come on, man. What do we have to do to win a game? And I felt the same way. I felt whipped.”
Brown also lamented the end of the first half when Virginia Tech scored 14 unanswered points in less than four minutes. Starting quarterback Hendon Hooker orchestrated an 8-play, 75-yard scoring drive that was capped off with a 2-yard touchdown run from Deshawn McClease.
After a quick three-and-out, the offense went right back down the field and scored again with 19 seconds on the clock.
“To me, the way you play the last five minutes of the half and the first five minutes of the second half is so key in college football in my experience of being 31 years of being a head coach,” Brown said. “We didn’t play well as a team; that’s a 14-point turnaround. They score, we get the ball and we have it for about 20 seconds.”
Brown also had high praise for Patterson, who earned ACC rookie of the week honors on Monday. The Hokies third-string quarterback came into the game after starting quarterback Hendon Hooker went down with an injury and backup Ryan Willis struggled at the start of the third quarter.
The redshirt freshman was 3 of 6 for 54 yards and 21 carries for 122 yards (5.8 yards per carry) with two touchdowns (one passing). He erased a 31-24 deficit in the fourth quarter with his first career touchdown — a 53-yard run — and scored the game-winning two-point conversion with a run off the left side in the sixth overtime.
“They did a smart thing bringing in the young freshman quarterback,” Brown said. “We’d never seen him, but gosh, the guy's 6-4, 250 [pounds] and hard to tackle, especially in the fourth quarter. So, give them credit for that."
Brown said Patterson put a short-handed North Carolina defense in a tough spot.
“His [defensive coordinator Jay Batman] problem is do you bunch up and try to stop the run and play man to man outside with inexperienced corners and guys are struggling some or do you play zone and let them run the ball?” Brown said. “What we had is Virginia Tech’s quarterback that came in is a 250-pound runner and we didn’t stop him. He ran up and down the field and that kid is going to be a really good player for the future. They probably found them something there with the third quarterback.”