One of the strangest endings of the Week 1 college football schedule came from once-and–future North Carolina Tar Heels coach Mack Brown’s return to the sidelines. Brown’s UNC team was up 24-20 against the South Carolina Gamecocks (in a neutral-site Belk Kickoff game in the Carolina Panthers’ Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte) in the final minutes after an interception, but on fourth down with 10 seconds left, they took a knee instead of punting. That gave South Carolina one final chance, and it prompted some consternation from the ESPN commentary team of Bob Wischusen and Dan Orlovsky:
Wischusen says “They can’t just take a knee. And they did! I’m very surprised that North Carolina would take a knee there. The change of possession’s going to stop the clock with 10 seconds to go. If they punt the ball, then that changes things dramatically, because South Carolina would either have to block the punt or rip off a return. Now, the Gamecocks are in Hail Mary position.” The North Carolina assistant seen facepalming here seems to have similar thoughts.
Orlovsky says “There seems to be, I would imagine, some miscommunication on that sideline. Because you take a timeout, snap, punt, tell your punter ‘Catch and kick,’ now South Carolina probably has two shots at a Hail Mary.
However, this wound up working out just fine for UNC, as they picked up a game-ending sack on the next play. (This initially looked like a fumble recovery for a touchdown, but was then changed to just a sack.) That was enough to end this one with a 24-20 win for North Carolina, though, and to give Brown a win in his first game coached since 2013. Even if that fourth-down kneel at the end made it a little interesting…