The term energy is defined as the strength and vitality required for sustained physical or mental activity. Last Friday night, it was a lack of energy in the first half that led to North Carolina losing its first football game of the 2019 season. Head Coach Mack Brown said they played hard, but lacked the energy needed to win the game. Going back to the definition above, it was the mental aspect of energy that was lacking for the Tar Heels.
The Tar Heels started the season 2-0 as they traveled to Winston-Salem last week to face Wake Forest. That early success is the likely culprit behind the lack of the mental energy and focus that found North Carolina looking at a 21-0 deficit in the first half. This game was a tale of two halves as the Tar Heels fought back in the second half and gave themselves a chance to win it at the end. Before and after this game Brown had explained how this team needs to learn how to handle winning. In his eyes, they failed that first test and explained where that mental energy comes from.
This past Wednesday he said, “I think like you do in your life, you have to learn to create it. You have to create an edge in everything you do every day and it’s hard to do, but what a great lesson for our coaches and our players last week that we didn’t create it, and we got beat. If we had created it, maybe we’d be 3-0 but you can’t look back at that.”
He continued, “Every day in your life, if you get up and you’re sick and you’ve got a wife and kids, you’ve got to have energy and you’ve got to create an edge and do the things you need to do. That’s why you can learn really good life lessons from a loss. You’d rather not; you’d rather learn it from a close win, but sometimes it gets your attention better when you get beat and it helps you grow faster.”
Brown’s Tar Heel team is going to have to learn that lesson quickly this week as a determined Appalachian State football team comes into Chapel Hill looking to stake their claim at the “state championship.” If North Carolina doesn’t bring the mental energy needed to play hard from the opening kickoff, Kenan Stadium will be the site of Appalachian State’s first victory over an in-state Power-5 team since the Mountaineers joined the FBS ranks.
Appalachian State has the attention of Brown and his staff. They have spent the entire week making sure that the Mountaineers have the attention of their players too.
On Monday Brown remarked, “When you start looking at App State, look at what their seniors accomplished the last few years, it’s the best in our state. App State’s good enough they could be in the ACC. They’re that talented.”
Brown isn’t just complimenting the Mountaineers to the media. He’s been doing the same thing behind closed doors with his players. As his team is “learning how to handle winning,” Appalachian State has built a program that expects to win every week. Scott Satterfield’s teams won over 40 games the last 4 years and they won 3 straight bowl games. New head coach Eli Drinkiwitz will have his team ready with the extra energy needed to knock off the Tar Heels. It will be up to the Tar Heels to determine how well they match that energy.
“We all have to grow together and understand that we’re not good enough to beat anybody unless we’re playing with passion,” Brown said earlier this week.
Brown told his players that the Appalachian State team they have watched on film will not be the team they see on Saturday.
He told them, “You’re not going to see the team that played East Tennessee State or Charlotte. Don’t even watch the video. Watch bodies, but don’t watch emotion because you’re not going to get that emotion.”
Brown has spent all week warning his players that the emotion they will see from the Mountaineers will be higher than anything they’ve seen on film. He has explained to his team that the guys from Boone have done a lot of winning over the last 4-5 years, so they expect to win. Brown doesn’t believe in huge pregame hype speeches. He believes in instilling the keys to victory throughout the week and it is clear that he has tried to do that this week.
What will it take for his Tar Heels to win this game? It’s not going to be about the X’s and O’s, although how the Tar Heel defense performs against the Mountaineer offense will be the key. The main key will be energy. North Carolina will have to have the mental energy needed to match and overcome the energy they face from the Mountaineers. In a sold-out, in-state battle like this one, the team that wins the energy game will win the football game.