GAME NOTES: The North Carolina Tar Heels will open their Atlantic Coast
Conference schedule when they visit Bobby Dodd Stadium to take on the Yellow
Jackets of Georgia Tech.
North Carolina has had two weeks to prepare for this contest, which is never a
bad thing when facing Georgia Tech's triple-option offense. After suffering a
27-10 loss at South Carolina in their season opener, the Tar Heels rebounded
with a 40-20 home win over Middle Tennessee on Sept. 7. Following this tilt,
they'll step out of conference play again to host East Carolina next weekend.
Georgia Tech came off a bye this past weekend and notched a 38-14 road victory
at Duke. The Yellow Jackets have looked sharp on both sides of the ball, as
they kicked off their season with a 70-0 drubbing of Elon on Aug. 31.
When these teams met last season, UNC gave up 68 points and 588 yards of total
offense despite coming off a bye week entering that matchup. Tech leads the
all-time series, 27-18-3.
North Carolina's offense was stymied by 12th-ranked South Carolina during its
season opener in Columbia. However, the Tar Heels came back with a much
stronger performance against Middle Tennessee two weeks ago. They scored the
first 23 points of that contest and went on to accumulate 511 yards from
scrimmage. They also converted 9-of-16 third downs and came away with six
points on four of their five trips inside the red zone. Romar Morris ran for
two touchdowns, while Bryn Renner completed 23-of-34 passes for 339 yards with
one touchdown and one interception. One of the few blemishes came early in the
fourth quarter when Ryan Switzer lost a fumble that was returned 25 yards the
other way for a Blue Raiders touchdown that cut the deficit to 26-13.
The Tar Heels gave up quite a few first downs (26) and yards (402) against
Middle Tennessee, but they were able to limit the damage on the scoreboard
thanks to several timely plays. In fact, the Blue Raiders came up empty in two
of their three trips inside the red zone. UNC's Tre Boston was responsible for
one of those stops with a one-handed interception in the end zone on MT's
opening drive, while Darien Rankin notched the second of the Tar Heels' three
interceptions with a pick around the 10-yard line midway through the third
quarter. After allowing the Blue Raiders to gain 78 yards in the game's first
drive, UNC yielded only 21 yards for the rest of the half. Travis Hughes
finished with a team-high nine tackles, while Darius Lipford tallied seven
sacks (2.0 TFL), a sack and a pass breakup.
Tech sophomore Vad Lee, a Durham native, enjoyed quite a homecoming last week
against Duke. He threw for a career-high four touchdown passes and also ran
for a score, as Georgia Tech opened its league slate with a 24-point road
victory. In fact, half of his eight completions on the day resulted in six
points for a typically methodical triple-option offense. Lee had plenty of
time to operate behind an offensive line that allowed zero sacks and helped
pave the way for the backs to run for 344 yards. All told, the Yellow Jackets
racked up 28 first downs and 469 total yards from scrimmage. They converted
11-of-17 third downs and won the time-of-possession battle by 17 minutes.
Through two games, Tech ranks third in the nation in both rushing offense
(356.0 ypg) and scoring offense (54.0 ppg).
On the other side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets lead the nation in scoring
defense (7.0 ppg) and rank seventh in total defense (253.5 ypg). They have
allowed only two touchdowns on the season, and one of those came in the final
minutes of a 31-point game this past weekend. Brandon Watts paces the unit
with 17 tackles (8.5 tpg).
Against Duke, the Yellow Jackets yielded only 254 total yards and 13 first
downs, as the Blue Devils converted just 3-of-14 third-down opportunities and
were forced to punt nine times. Jemea Thomas chipped in with seven tackles,
while Quayshawn Nealy matched that production.
Georgia Tech put up some serious numbers the last time these teams met. With
Lee at the helm, another big day is certainly a possibility against a UNC
defense that had some trouble with Middle Tennessee. Look for the Yellow
Jackets to take this one on their home field.
Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Georgia Tech 41, North Carolina 31