Sept. 14: Carolina In The Evening

The <B>Mack Brown</B> homecoming tour begins Sept. 14 at North Carolina, the first of two road trips this month to campuses where the fifth-year UT coach used to pick up his paycheck.

Texas, of course, lured Brown from Chapel Hill in December, 1997, after he transformed a beleaguered one-win squad in 1988 into a defensive juggernaut, winning 10 games in each of his final two seasons and culminating in a No. 4 national ranking (ESPN/USA Today).

Brown also coached Tulane (the Sept. 28 host team) to a 1987 Independence Bowl berth, capping a three-year stint in New Orleans.

But that was then…

Texas now faces a Tar Heel team coming off a stirring 30-22 come-from-behind win last week at Syracuse.

"They played great against Syracuse," Brown said, "They were a totally different team than people would have thought they were against Miami (Ohio). If they don’t have the nine turnovers against Miami (Ohio), they’re 2-0 and in the Top 25."

The Horns will also face a supercharged, sold-out Kenan Memorial Stadium crowd, hyped-up because it’s the season’s sexiest home game (the Heels travel to high-profile Florida State and rival Duke) and also eager to extend some southern un-hospitality to the Brown clan.

But fans and coaches don’t square off on the field. The Tar Heels are a talented bunch, eager to prove that winning eight-of-its-last-10 games last season, including a 41-9 season-making triumph against Florida State and polishing off in-state rivals North Carolina State and Duke, was no fluke. The 16-10 Peach Bowl win against Auburn was the victory cigar of head coach John Bunting’s inaugural campaign along tobacco road.

The Heels return seven starters to its multiple set offense. Carolina QB Darian Durant is half the reason why the 1-1 Tar Heels are averaging 441.5 yards, fueled by 318.5 yards passing); the other half is Tar Heel leading receiver WR Sam Aiken.

But Carolina coaches have had to replace eight (eight!) defensive starters, including All-American DE Julius Peppers, who took four other '01 Tar Heel seniors into the NFL with him.

ABC Sports will broadcast the game to approximately one-third of the nation, with kick-off set for 7 p.m. (CST).

"They need to win, and we need to win," Brown said. "That’s what makes this such a great match-up."

All week, Brown downplayed the obvious connection between his 10-year coaching stint at North Carolina (at least in terms of heightening the game’s emotion) and focused instead on praising the Tar Heels as a formidable opponent.

"You have to give North Carolina a lot of credit, after they got beat (at home in the opener) for coming back on the road at Syracuse," Brown said, "being down and scoring 14 points in the fourth quarter to win the game. You look at kids and the coaching staff to see how kids will respond and react. They had a lot of character and nearly beat Miami (Ohio) when they had nine turnovers. And they were on the 23 yard line at the end of the game. Most kids would have quit with nine turnovers at home in a rainstorm. And to come back and get two drives at the end of the (Syracuse) game, you have to give them a lot of credit. They’re a confident bunch right now."

The Brown family still has significant contacts in North Carolina. Brown’s daughters are recent North Carolina graduates, and his stepson is a schoolteacher in Chapel Hill. Brown said he and his wife Sally return to visit friends each spring and summer.

"I’ve been in Chapel Hill a whole lot in the past five years," Brown said, "so I believe if (the game) had been the year after we left, and Carl Torbush and the staff we had was still there, and if the players we had recruited and coached were still there, it would have been really emotional. What it is, right now, is a tough game. They’ve got a good team."

Currently, there are only four Tar Heel players that were Brown recruits (Chesley Borders, DeFonte Coleman, Eric Davis and Zach Hilton).

"There aren’t a lot of ties right now as far as the football program is concerned, but there are a lot of ties with the state," Brown said. "This isn’t as much about myself going back as much as it’s about our scheduling this (game) while I was at North Carolina to have a strong team to play against for the BCS (points)."


(Texas leads 5-3)

1947 Texas: 34 - NC: 0

1948 Texas: 7 - NC: 34

1951 Texas: 45 - NC: 20

1952: Texas: 28 - NC: 7

1980: Texas: 7 - NC: 16 (Bluebonnet Bowl)

1982: Texas: 10 - NC: 26 (Sun Bowl)

1994: Texas: 35 - NC: 31 (Sun Bowl)

2001: Texas: 44 - NC: 14

Horns Digest Top Stories