Georgia Tech's option offense was in full effect Saturday afternoon as the Yellow Jackets kept the ball close to their vest, rushing the ball 71 times for 324 yards to come from behind to defeat the North Carolina Tar Heels 28-20. Georgia Tech had nine different players run the football with quarterback Vad Lee and running back David Sims carrying the biggest responsibility with more than 30 carries and 170 yards between them.
In a game most notable for the almost 2 inches of rain, that starting falling during warm-ups and ended a little after the final whistle, controlling the ball was imperative. In running the ball as often as they did, Georgia Tech kept the ball for more than 40 minutes.
North Carolina came out of the gate quickly returning the kick off 42 yards to start the game. In a drive dominated by three complete passes to tight end Eric Ebron, Ramon Morris scored on a 4 yard run.
After exchanging punts on the next couple of drives Georgia Tech then put together an offensive drive that started on their own five-yard line and made it to the North Carolina 42 when Lee fumbled and UNC recovered to record the first turnover of the game. The Tar Heels then took advantage of the short field to score their second touchdown with a 19-yard pass to Ebron.
Georgia Tech's coaches kept faith with the ground game game-plan despite falling behind 13-0 to two early North Carolina touchdowns but also used the passing game to good effect scoring a second quarter touchdown highlighted by a 26-yard pass completion from Vad Lee to wide receiver DeAndre Smelter early in the drive.
After North Carolina scored a second touchdown in the second quarter to go 20-7 up the Yellow Jackets responded late in the half with an 80-yard touchdown drive to go in at halftime only six points down.
In the second half North Carolina’s offense was only on the field for little more than seven minutes such was the control that Tech had on the ball.
On North Carolina’s first possession of the second half in what was the game’s pivotal moment, an 86-yard touchdown pass completion was called back for an offensive holding penalty. A further penalty pinned Carolina on their own five-yard line that provided Tech a very short field on their possession. With a drive comprising of entirely of rushes Vad Lee scored the go-ahead touchdown.
As the game wore on the incessant downpour and the sheer number of Georgia Tech offensive plays began to tire North Carolina's defense and Tech was able to take the lead on a Vad Lee touchdown run in the third quarter.
Taking a 28-20 lead on the first drive of the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech’s possession offense then effectively closed the game out with a 56-yard drive that ran the last six and a half minutes off the clock.
After the game Coach Paul Johnson said “I’m really proud of our team especially in the second half. We didn’t start out too well and… they did a good job of getting the lead, but I thought the momentum changed when we were able to take that last drive right before half and go down and score…and we knew that we were getting the ball first. Once we got the lead we found a renewed energy and we played a lot better defensively and offensively for that matter.”
With the win Georgia Tech goes to 3-0, 2-0 on the season while North Carolina falls to 1-2, 0-1. Up next for Georgia Tech is a televised “white-out” game on Thursday night against Virginia Tech.