No. 12 UNC aims to shake off rust vs. BC

NCAA Football

North Carolina needs to get things cranked up again after a three-week hiatus.

The next assignment comes against a Boston College team that has learned how to put it in gear at the right times in the second halves of a pair of victories.

The No. 12 Tar Heels (1-0, 1-0 ACC) seem happy just to be heading back to the field, this time for their first road outing of the season Saturday in Chestnut Hill, Mass.

“We still haven’t had our second game, so that will be interesting to see this weekend as we move forward,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “But I’m not worried about them being excited about playing, they’ll be ready to play.”

By game day, it will be three weeks since UNC last played.

The Tar Heels’ scheduled non-league game for Sept. 19 against Charlotte was called off two days before the slated date because of coronavirus concerns related to the Charlotte offensive line. North Carolina officials came up empty in a quest to fill the Sept. 26 open date with an opponent.

“What we’ve told our players and coaches is let’s just start the season over,” said Brown, whose team rolled to a 31-6 win over Syracuse on Sept. 12 in its lone game. “… Let’s just go back and restart and that’s what we’re trying to get their mentality to be.”

Since North Carolina last played, Boston College (2-0, 1-0) has competed twice — posting a 26-6 win at Duke on Sept. 19 and pulling out a 24-21 victory last weekend at home against Texas State.

The time off from game weeks has given the North Carolina coaching staff time to see what the new Boston College staff might be brewing.

“We saw a couple of new things from the second game,” Tar Heels offensive coordinator Phil Longo said of the Eagles’ defense.

This has been North Carolina’s longest regular-season layoff since 1952, when there was a polio outbreak on campus.

The Tar Heels didn’t start to click in the Syracuse game until the second half. They’re expected to showcase a high-powered offense with sophomore quarterback Sam Howell.

Howell threw 38 touchdown passes last year, yet only one in this season’s opener.

Quarterback Phil Jurkovec of Boston College excelled down the stretch against Texas State, again performing better after halftime following more first-half snags.

“We have to do a better job to make sure he does that in the first (half),” Boston College coach Jeff Hafley said.

The Eagles needed Aaron Boumerhi’s 36-yard field goal with three seconds left to complete a fourth-quarter comeback to top Texas State.

That came in the home opener for Boston College. The Eagles discovered that they’ll have to create their own energy no matter where games are contested because of the lack of fans in many cases during the pandemic. That will be the scenario for this game as well.

“There is no such thing as a home-field advantage anymore,” Jurkovec said. “It is weird.”

The Eagles are taking certain satisfaction that their practice work has paid off. Tight end Hunter Long, who has 16 receptions across two games, said repetitions regarding areas such as late-game situations have proved helpful.

“We’ve done it so many times, we had all the confidence in the world,” Long said.

There is all sorts of learning going on for the Boston College team.

“It’s about us,” Hafley said. “It’s going to come down to little things.”

Hafley, a first-year coach, has two career victories compared to Brown’s 252, which makes him the active leader among Football Bowl Subdivision coaches. In 32 years as a head coach, this will mark the first time Brown has a team face Boston College.

Dating to last season, the Tar Heels hold a four-game winning streak for the first time since 2016.

This will be North Carolina’s third road outing against Boston College, and the first since winning 31-13 in 2009.

–Field Level Media

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