Tar Heels Complete Largest Comeback In School History, Beat GT 38-31

With four minutes remaining in the first half, the UNC football team had just let Georgia Tech run the ball down the field for its third touchdown of the game on its third drive of the game.

Down 21-0 at that time, all hope looked lost for Head Coach Larry Fedora and his team.

But the Tar Heels stayed resilient, fighting all the way back to defeat the Yellow Jackets 38-31 on Saturday–the biggest comeback in team history, and its first win in Atlanta since 1997.

UNC wins its fourth consecutive game and moves to 4-1 on the year, opening ACC play 1-0 for the first time in Fedora’s four-year tenure. The Yellow Jackets, meanwhile, have now dropped three straight contests, and fall to 2-3 with an 0-2 record inside the conference.

“Just a lot of guts from this team,” Fedora said about the comeback. “In all three phases. Just a tremendous team effort.”

After questions about a possible quarterback controversy dominated the headlines in Chapel Hill this week, senior Marquise Williams was electric against Georgia Tech.

Marquise Williams carries the football. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Marquise Williams carries the football. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

He was efficient throwing the ball, going 13-for-24 for 134 yards–but it was with his legs that he did the most damage. Fifteen times he carried the rock himself, tallying 148 yards and two touchdowns on the ground–not to mention hauling in a receiving touchdown that swung all the momentum over to the boys in light blue.

“I told the guys, ‘When it’s ACC play, that’s when I’m ready to go,'” Williams said after the game. “It shouldn’t be like that way, but when it’s conference time, that’s when I’m ready to go get it.

“This is our chance right now,” he continued. “And I’m seizing that opportunity to do something different around here”

Oddly enough, it was a wide receiver–senior Quinshad Davis–who threw the game’s most important pass. Trailing 28-24 in the fourth quarter, Davis took a hand-off on what looked like a reverse play. However, Williams slipped downfield and Davis threw him a 37-yard bomb that gave UNC its first lead of the day.

“I was looking, and I was like ‘This ball is in the air too long,'” Williams said about the crucial catch. “I said, ‘If I drop this, I am not allowed to go back to Chapel Hill.'”

Sophomore tailback Elijah Hood also contributed a pair of rushing touchdowns on 12 carries, racking up 60 yards in the process.

Jeff Schoettmer chases down the ball carrier. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Jeff Schoettmer chases down the ball carrier. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Georgia Tech was led by quarterback Justin Thomas and fullback Patrick Skov, each of whom ran the ball for 56 yards. Early in the game Skov was unstoppable on runs up the middle, consistently churning out first downs that kept the Tar Heel offense off the field.

Thomas completed 12 of his 21 passes for 162 yards–throwing one touchdown and an interception on the game’s final play.

The first sign of a potential comeback was at the end of the second quarter when Williams led the Tar Heels on a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in just over three minutes.  After forcing Tech to punt, UNC got 56 seconds to try and add another to their tally before the break.

They would do just that–as Williams drove the team 37 yards before running it in from seven yards out–cutting the halftime deficit to just 21-14.

A 37-yard field goal from Nick Weiler on the first possession of the third quarter brought the Tar Heels to within four points, but the Yellow Jackets responded with a touchdown drive of their own.

Thomas found freshman Mikell Lands-Davis for a 19-yard score, bringing the lead back to double digits.

A subsequent Hood touchdown brought UNC back within four, but the Yellow Jackets seemed intent on closing this one out.

Reaching the Tar Heels’ 1-yard-line on 3rd-and-goal, it seemed like another score would be a formality. But the defense held strong, stuffing Thomas on 4th down to keep the dream alive.

UNC punted on its next drive, handing the ball right back to Georgia Tech. Then, defensive lineman Junior Gnonkonde forced a fumble, which was recovered by the Tar Heels at the Tech 37-yard line.

“When you get down 21 points you tend to worry about ‘Do we need to score every series?'” Fedora said. “And I thought [offensive coordinator] Seth [Littrell] did a really good job just continuing to do what we do. And the kids responded really well.”

What happened next will go down in history, as Davis found Williams for the game’s signature moment–giving the visiting team its first lead of the afternoon.

Quinshad Davis and Robert Dinkins. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

Quinshad Davis and Robert Dinkins. Photo via Smith Cameron Photography.

A 27-yard rushing touchdown by Williams on the next drive extended the lead to 10, and just about sealed it up.

The Yellow Jackets kicked a field goal with 2:46 to play, but were not able to muster anything else–giving Fedora perhaps the most important win he’s had during his time in Chapel Hill.

Up Next:

UNC has its bye week next week, taking to time to rest and prepare for its next contest–an October 17th home game against in-state rival Wake Forest.

Game Notes:

  • Georgia Tech became the fourth team in five games to run for over 200 yards against a porous UNC run defense that came into Saturday allowing 229 yards per game on the ground.
  • Time of possession was dominated by the Yellow Jackets, who held the ball for 38:45 (compared to the Tar Heels’ 21:15).
  • It’s worth mentioning again: the comeback was the largest in school history.
  • Williams led the team in passing, rushing, and receiving.



UNC Football Preview: Georgia Tech’s Triple Option Always a Test

For the first time during Head Coach Larry Fedora’s four-year tenure, the UNC Football team is 3-1 after its first four games. This week the Tar Heels take on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta—a place they have not won since 1997.

To come away with the victory, UNC will have to show improvement in its run defense—which ranks 113th in the nation–against Tech’s triple option offensive system.

Last season’s ACC Coastal Division Champions, the Yellow Jackets sit at 2-2 (0-1 in ACC play) so far in 2015—coming off back-to-back losses at the hands of Notre Dame and Duke. This is nothing new for Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson and his team, though, as they took a similar pathway to the conference title game a year ago, losing to Duke and UNC in consecutive weeks before rattling off a five-game win streak to close out the year.

Fedora knows Johnson will use that to motivate his squad going into this game.

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas works the triple option. (Bleacher Report)

Georgia Tech quarterback Justin Thomas works the triple option. (Bleacher Report)

“I don’t think Paul is gonna panic by any means,” Fedora said. “He is not that kind of guy. He knows they’re gonna keep doing what they do. He’s gonna get things going in the right direction. I don’t think he’s in any panic mode at all.”

Georgia Tech is known for their unique, old-school triple option offense, which pounds the ball in the running game using clever deception to throw off the defense—with the three options being a run up the middle, a quarterback keeper, or a pitch to the outside.

Currently giving up 228 yards per game on the ground, UNC senior linebacker Jeff Schoettmer says he and his group will have to do better–both mentally and physically– to hold the Yellow Jacket running game in check.

“Their offense is unlike any other that we’ve faced so far, or will face [this season]” Schoettmer said. “The triple option’s all about eye discipline and doing your job.

“On any given play you can have a dive player, a quarterback player, and a pitch player. Guys can’t be greedy with their eyes. They gotta keep their eyes in the right place, and really take care of their job, and trust that the other guy is gonna take care of their job.”

One of the other keys for Georgia Tech is that its offense keeps the clock running, shortening the overall length of the game. The Yellow Jackets are highly allergic to passing the ball, as evidenced by the fact that quarterback Justin Thomas has thrown just 58 passes this year—completing just 24 of them for 415 yards.

It'll be important for the Tar Heels to stay in their tackling lanes if they want to slow down the run. (UNC Athletics)

It’ll be important for the Tar Heels to stay in their tackling lanes if they want to slow down the run. (UNC Athletics)

Tar Heel offensive guard Landon Turner sees that as their biggest weakness.

“With those kinds of teams, when they want to control the clock, they’re not really built to come from behind,” Turner said. “When we get the ball we need to make sure we’re taking advantage of our opportunities and start to get up and put pressure on their offense and not the other way around—with them putting pressure on the clock for us.”

For UNC to jump out to the early lead Turner talked about, they’ll need a clean game from senior quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams, who gets another shot to maintain his hold on the starting job, realizes that with the way Georgia Tech plays—milking the clock down–he may not see the ball as much as he would in other games.

“It’s more important to take care of the football and seizing every possession we get,” Williams said about the offensive strategy. “I think last year [against Georgia Tech] we got maybe 10 or 11 possessions and we seized every possession we got. So we have to take care of the football, move the chains, and try to help our defense not stay on the field that long.”

One thing is for sure heading into this Saturday. Williams and the Tar Heels are fired up to be done with their non-conference schedule. Now it’s on to the big boys, as the cupcakes have all been eaten. With that said, Williams can be forgiven for sleepwalking a bit against Delaware, but Tar Heel fans can rest easy knowing he has a much different attitude about Georgia Tech.

Marquise Williams (12) will be starting at quarterback this weekend, despite the controversy around the position. (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (12) will be starting at quarterback this weekend, despite the controversy around the position. (UNC Athletics)

“That’s a great football team,” the senior quarterback said about his opponent. “Two losses, that doesn’t mean nothing. They still got a chance to win the ACC Championship just like we do, in the Coastal.

“Those guys’ll come back. They’re back at home now, in front of their fans, and we’re coming up there. It just seems like every ACC school that plays us comes out bangin’ and ready to go. And we’re excited for another opportunity.”

Broadcast Information:

The game is set to kickoff at 3:30 p.m. and will be broadcast live on WCHL’s airwaves. TV coverage will be shown on ESPNU.

Game Notes:

  • The Tar Heels have yet to win an ACC opener under Fedora, going 0-3 so far during his tenure.
  • UNC won a 48-43 shootout against the Yellow Jackets at Kenan Stadium in 2014. Marquise Williams led the way with 390 yards passing, 73 yards rushing, and 5 total touchdowns.
  • Despite the team’s woes defending the run, they rank third in the nation in passing yards allowed, and are 16th in total scoring defense. They have yet to allow more than 17 points in a game in 2015.
  • It was announced on Thursday that junior linebacker Joe Jackson has suffered a career-ending neck injury, and will no longer be with the team.

Tar Heels Thwart Yellow Jackets 48-43

The North Carolina football team used T.J. Logan’s game-winning touchdown dive with 11 seconds to play to get past Georgia Tech 48-43 in Kenan Stadium Saturday night and improve to 3-4 overall and 1-2 in the ACC.

With the loss, the Yellow Jackets dropped to 5-2 on the season and 2-2 in conference play.

Quarterback Marquise Williams completed 38 of 47 pass attempts for 390 yards and four touchdowns. At one point in the second half, Williams completed 14 consecutive attempts, one shy of the school record.

“We just had to play with confidence as an offense,” Williams says. “We told the defense as soon as they came off, we said, `We got your back.'”

Williams set the UNC record for completions in a game with 38 (previous was 33 by T.J. Yates vs. NC State in 2010). He also set the UNC record for completions in consecutive games with 62. The previous record was 61 by Yates in 2010.

“All night (Marquise) did a really nice job of taking the ball where it was supposed to go,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora says. “He didn’t force it, and he checked down when we needed to. That’s why we moved the chains the way we did.”

The Yellow Jackets struck first with a Zach Laskey 3-yard touchdown to go up 7-0 with 5:47 to go in the first quarter.

The Tar Heels answered right back when Williams threw an 8-yard touchdown pass to Bug Howard to tie the contest at 7-7 with 1:14 remaining in the first quarter. Georgia Tech responded with a 27-yard field goal by Harrison Butker to snag back the lead at 10-7 with 10:47 left in the half.

A Williams to Ryan Switzer 68-yard touchdown pass pushed UNC ahead 14-10 with 9:13 to go in the second quarter.

Following some solid defensive effort, the Tar Heels struck again. This time, it was much the same. Williams used his legs to get down the field and then polished the scoring drive off with a 15-yard touchdown pass to Switzer to give UNC a 21-10 advantage with 2:51 left in the second quarter.

The Yellow Jackets didn’t waste any time responding. QB Justin Thomas slung a 12-yard touchdown strike to Tony Zenon to close the gap to 21-17 with 1:25 to play in the half.

To open the second half, Georgia Tech took advantage of their first possession and reclaimed the lead at 24-21 thanks to a 65-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Darren Walker with 12 minutes remaining in the third quarter.

Carolina answered right back with a scoring drive that was capped off by a 13-yard touchdown run by Williams to push the Tar Heels into the lead at 28-24 with 8:13 on the third quarter clock.

The Tar Heels widened the gap yet again with another impressive drive that ended with a 3-yard touchdown dive by running back Romar Morris that gave UNC the 35-24 lead with 2:36 to play in the third quarter.

Justin Thomas rallied the Jackets back into contention with a 46-yard scoring pass to Deandre Smelter to close the margin down to 35-31 with 14:50 left in the game.

The key play of the game came on a 4th and 6 at the GT 36-yard line. UNC’s Coach Fedora elected to go for it. It paid off. Williams hooked up with Mack Hollins for a 36-yard touchdown pass to give the home team a 42-31 cushion with 12:34 left to play.

The Yellow Jackets responded with a 14-yard touchdown dash by Zach Laskey. But a huge tackle by UNC defender Des Lawrence put a stop to Georgia Tech’s two-point conversion effort. The Tar Heels held a 42-37 advantage with 8 minutes left in the contest.

A 75-yard reverse by Smelter went to the end zone for a touchdown and gave Georgia Tech a 43-42 edge with 3:07 to play.

On the next possession, UNC bounced back strongly.  Logan took the ball in the end zone for the game-winner with a two-yard scoring dive to earn the Tar Heels the 48-43 win.

Georgia Tech had one final possession deep in its own end, but Thomas’ desperation deep heave fell incomplete and receiver Michael Summers dropped Thomas’ short pass.

Next up for UNC comes a trip up to Charlottesville next Saturday to take on the 4-3 Virginia Cavaliers in another critical ACC Coastal matchup.



Tar Heels Look To Avoid Habitual Yellow Jacket Sting

The 2-4 North Carolina football team will welcome 5-1 Georgia Tech to Chapel Hill this weekend for a 7 p.m. kickoff Saturday under the lights at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels will be searching for their first ACC win of the season.

***Listen to the story***

Saturday’s game is a classic contrast in styles. It’s the jumpy, up-tempo UNC offense up against the deliberate, ‘lull you to sleep’ triple-option assault of Georgia Tech.

UNC head coach Larry Fedora says there’s pressure to score on every possession against the Yellow Jackets’ style of play that eats up so much clock.

“Georgia Tech does a tremendous job of possessing the ball. They stay ahead of the chains so they’re not in long-yardage situations on third down. They can still get to their entire offense, which is the triple option. Offensively, you go from averaging 14-15 possessions in a game to 9-10,” Coach Fedora says.

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams airs one out (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora says the Tar Heels have been preparing a little differently in practice this week – without a football.

“We don’t use a ball when we’re running the triple option. That way, the defense doesn’t know who has the ball because there is no ball. On every play, somebody should be wrapping the fullback up, somebody should have the quarterback and somebody should have the pitch. If they’re not, something is wrong,” Coach Fedora says.

UNC senior defensive tackle Ethan Farmer says gap assignments are a priority against the triple option.

“You’re going to have to fit your gap and do your job. You can’t really worry about the guy next to you; just know that he’s going to be able to do his job. Everybody on this defense has a job to do. If we do our job, we’ll be fine on Saturday,” Farmer says.

Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson is worried about the dual-threat ability of Carolina junior quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams is one of only eight players in the country leading his team in both passing yards and rushing yards.

Coach Johnson says the Yellow Jacket defense will try to keep Williams constrained inside the pocket.

“You have to be mindful of your rush lanes. Where he really kills you is adlibbing. You have to do a good job of keeping him in the pocket and not letting him kill you on scramble plays,” Coach Johnson says.

A win this weekend would provide a huge confidence boost to the Tar Heels for multiple reasons.

First, UNC needs to put a stop to the immediate bleeding – a four-game losing streak. But perhaps more importantly, the Tar Heels must exorcise their triple option demons.

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

GT QB Justin Thomas (Sportsonearth.com)

UNC has succumbed to Georgia Tech on five straight occasions and dropped 14 of the last 16 contests between the schools. In order to harbor any realistic hopes of winning the ACC Coastal this year and what’s more, in any future seasons, the Tar Heels must prove they can find a way past the Yellow Jackets.

Coach Fedora senses that urgency and says the Tar Heels will need to quickly adapt to the speed at which Georgia Tech runs the triple option. But the problem is he also says it’s impossible to adequately simulate Coach Johnson’s offense with a scout team.

“There’s no way you’re going to show them the speed of the game with the triple option in practice. We don’t run it. You’re not going to get a scout team to run the triple option as quickly and efficiently as they do. It takes some time at the beginning of the game to get acclimated to the speed of it. Hopefully, it doesn’t take too long. You’re only going to have so many possessions,” Coach Fedora says.

A quick start is always important, but against the ball-control running of Georgia Tech, it’s even more vital. An early first half lead reminiscent of the 14-0 margin opened up by the Tar Heels a week ago at Notre Dame, could completely change the complexion of the game Saturday night.


Scouting Report: A Chat With GT Coach Paul Johnson

WCHL’s Matt Oakes caught up with Georgia Tech Yellow Jacket head coach Paul Johnson to discuss the state of GT football, the parity in the ACC, the triple-option offense and his matchup with the Tar Heels this weekend in Chapel Hill.

***Listen to the conversation***


UNC Football Turning the Corner À La 2013?

UNC football head coach Larry Fedora is comparing the Tar Heels’ tough 50-43 loss at Notre Dame on Saturday to last season’s 27-23 defeat to Miami in Chapel Hill.

The parallels are plentiful, but will UNC back it up with another dramatic turnaround?

***Listen to the story***

“There were many bright spots. There were some things that we were able to take from this game [at Notre Dame] and hopefully, we’ll be able to grow on and be a better football team because of it,” Coach Fedora says.

The energy was up. The Tar Heel defenders were flying to the ball and playing with aggression. Marquise Williams and the offense were clicking on all cylinders.

Was Saturday the beginning of a transformation reminiscent of the Miami game on Zero Dark Thursday in Kenan Stadium a year ago?

The similarities are eerie.

Both games were played in mid-October. UNC was largely written off heading into both contests, following sluggish starts to the seasons. The Tar Heels were facing an undefeated and top-ten team on both occasions. And to top it all off, the underdog Tar Heels carried a surprising lead into the fourth quarter only to suffer a painful loss both years.

In 2013, following the Miami defeat, UNC stood at 1-5. But the Tar Heels were a new team afterwards, rallying to win six of their next seven games to finish with a 7-6 record and a Belk Bowl victory.

The precedent is there, but can UNC find that detour road map and navigate through to a bowl game yet again?

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Coach Fedora is confident that if Carolina is able to clean up its own act, the Tar Heels can match up competitively with anyone.

“I think our football team came out of that understanding that if we take care of ourselves, we can play with anybody. But again, for us, it’s about ‘us’. Every team that’s defeated us, you give them the credit, and they’ve done a great job. But we just have to take care of us. If we take care of ‘us’, we give ourselves a chance to win against anybody,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora is hoping his Tar Heels can draw inspiration from what they were able to accomplish post-Miami in 2013 and apply it to 2014.

“I would say this Notre Dame game was a lot like Miami last year. We learned a lot of lessons in that game and started playing much better. Hopefully, we’ll do the same thing this year,” Coach Fedora says.

If the 2-4 Tar Heels are to embark on a similar recovery effort this season, they’ll have to start the process by overcoming the triple-option attack of Georgia Tech.

Coach Fedora says there is no good way to replicate what Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson does with his offense with a scout team in practice.

But Coach Fedora says the team is looking forward to returning home and taking on the Yellow Jackets.

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

Yellow Jacket offense (Joe Hamilton)

“We’re excited about coming home and playing in front of our home fans again. We’re taking on a very good Georgia Tech team that totally makes you stop what you’re doing on defense and change to prepare for the triple-option attack,” Coach Fedora says.

It will be a tough hurdle to clear Saturday. UNC has dropped 14 out of its last 16 matchups with Georgia Tech, including losses in the last five meetings.

But maybe a narrow miss against a top-10 opponent will again prove to be the necessary fodder for another successful Tar Heel turnaround.


Coach Fedora: Offense Has No Flow

CHAPEL HILL – The 28-20 defeat at Georgia Tech on Saturday saw the UNC offense held scoreless for the entire second half of football. A unit that has long been touted as explosive and dynamic has now been called in to question off the heels of a loss in the ACC opener.

And at Monday’s press conference, a rather blunt Head Coach Larry Fedora says he just doesn’t think his offense is gelling as a group yet.

“We’re not playing as well offensively. We’re just not playing as well. It’s as simple as that. It would be easy if it was just that one thing. […] There’s a lot of things involved with it,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora says there are numerous factors inhibiting the team’s ability to get in a rhythm during games including relative inexperience and lack of any flow.

“Some of it is the continuity up front and the young guys up front. I think there are a lot of different pieces. We’re not getting into a flow. You got to keep moving the chains to get in a flow offensively,” Coach Fedora says.

Unfortunately for the Tar Heels, Coach Fedora says one of the disappointing trends for the team is the inability to put together a solid complete game of football. He says the mistakes just keep piling up and that Carolina has a long way to go to get where they want to be.

“Whatever we could do to shoot ourselves in the foot and to hurt ourselves, we did. And that has kind of been our Achilles heel this year,” Coach Fedora says.

History seemed to repeat itself against Georgia Tech this year as the UNC defense recorded 21 missed tackles, allowing the Yellow Jackets offense to pick up crucial third down conversions.

Coach Fedora declines to comment on the controversial calls from Saturday’s game, one of which handed the Yellow Jackets a touchdown despite obvious evidence that the ball was fumbled before crossing the goal line.

With East Carolina coming into town next, Coach Fedora says the Pirate defense will be a handful for his team in Kenan Stadium.

“They’re flying around. You’ve got a lot of guys getting multiple hats to the ball. They’ve created some takeaways. I think they’re playing really well,” Coach Fedora says.

Tar Heel fans can come and watch Carolina take on ECU at 12:30 p.m. this Saturday. And WCHL (97.9 FM) will have you covered as always on game day.

We will get things started bright and early at 9 a.m. with Countdown to Kickoff. And tune in to On The Heels after the contest for in-depth post-game coverage and live call ins.



UNC Offense Stalls, GT Comes Back For 28-20 Win

ATLANTA – Georgia Tech scored 21 unanswered points against North Carolina Saturday and extended the 16-year unbeaten streak against the Tar Heels at home, 28-20.

UNC looked to be in clear control opening the contest with a four-yard rushing touchdown in the first two-and-a-half minutes by sophomore tailback Romar Morris, and this, the second score, a 19-yard toss from senior quarterback Bryn Renner to junior tight end Eric Ebron.

***Listen to the Call by Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network***

Carolina missed the point-after on the first touchdown and took the 13-0 lead into the second quarter.

About four minutes into the second frame, the Yellow Jackets found the endzone on a one-yard run by redshirt senior blocking back David Sims.

Just two minutes later, the Tar Heels answered with a 24-yard pass from Renner to junior wide receiver Sean Tapley.

***Listen to the Call by Jones Angell on the Tar Heel Sports Network***


But that’s where the scoring ended for UNC. Georgia Tech tallied seven more just 30 seconds before halftime and Carolina took the 20-14 lead into the locker room.

The heavens opened at the onset of the second half as a downpour ensued causing sloppy conditions. But it looked as if the home team took the worst of it, fumbling the ball two times in its opening possession of the half. But, the Jackets didn’t lose possession and pinned the Heels inside their 15.

A pair of penalties previewed the struggles Carolina was about to have in the second half as the offense just wasn’t able to click the way it did in the first. UNC saw three three-and-outs in the second half, and the only other series ended in an interception.

In all, Georgia Tech held the ball for nearly 41 minutes compared to Carolina’s 19; Tech outgained Carolina 428-319, including a 324-101 mark on the ground. The Tar Heels did win the passing category, 218-104.

After the game, Head Coach Larry Fedora said he was disappointed with the outcome considering how well his team began.

“Well, we had plenty of opportunities to win the football game, and we didn’t get it done,” Coach Fedora said. “They made more plays than we did and got a few more calls than we did. We just didn’t capitalize when we needed to. We had some momentum going early in the game and throughout that first half, and we just never put the ballgame away.”

With the loss, North Carolina fell to 1-2, 0-1 in the ACC; Georgia Tech improved to 3-0, 2-0 in the ACC.

The Tar Heels return home next week to host the East Carolina Pirates at 12:30 p.m. WCHL’s pregame coverage begins with Countdown to Kickoff with Ron Stutts presented by UNC Health Care live at Ram’s Plaza at 9:00 a.m.


‘Ultimate Measuring Stick’: UNC Coaches Ready for Game Time

CHAPEL HILL—The Tar Heels finally get a chance to kick off their ACC slate against the formidable Yellow Jackets of Georgia Tech Saturday. And with ample opportunity to prepare these last two weeks, the coaching staff is ready for some live action. Coach Fedora even calls the game the ‘ultimate measuring stick.’

Defensive Coordinator Vic Koenning says he tries to instill some fight and toughness in his defense, but in the end, the players have to want it the most.

“You like to take your heart, your knowledge, your focus, and everything you want as a coach and put it in some of them. And you can’t really do that. You can’t want it more than they want it,” Coach Koenning says.

Koenning says Saturday’s contest will come down to a battle of wills. Which team will sacrifice more to get the win? Koenning even quotes some Scripture when characterizing the showdown.

“In the Book of John in the Bible, 8:32, basically says the truth will set you free. On Saturday at twelve, the truth is going to be the truth. Do we want it enough? Are we willing to fly around and get off the ground and put our bodies in there?” Koenning asks.

Koenning says one of the scariest propositions for the Tar Heel defense this weekend will be containing standout Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee. His versatile play running the option and throwing the ball down the field presents major problems.

Head Coach Larry Fedora says despite the thorough and sound preparations made by his team, he can never really predict how his squad will fare on game day. It’s up to the players, after all.

“I’ve been doing this for a long time. I wish I could say that you know, but you never know. You really don’t. You work extremely hard during the week; you prepare them, and give them everything you possibly have. And then it comes down to the last day of a personal plan then,” Coach Fedora says.

For Tar Heel fans, let’s hope those “personal plans” include emerging with a win against a conference rival on Saturday.


UNC Offense Feeling Pressure to Perform

Photo courtesy of Aaron Beard

CHAPEL HILL– We are just two days out from the Tar Heels taking on the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in Atlanta. The pressing question in most observers’ minds is how the UNC defense will handle the rare triple option attack.

And UNC Offensive Coordinator Blake Anderson says he can’t help but admire the fundamentally sound scheme that Yellow Jacket Head Coach Paul Johnson employs to confuse teams with superior athletes.

“I have a tremendous amount of respect for what they’ve been able to do, the points they’ve scored, and the games they’ve won. Honestly, even when situations sometimes when they’ve been outmatched physically, schematically they play better than the people they play,” Anderson says.

Anderson says his offense will feel a lot of pressure to keep the chains moving in Atlanta on Saturday, especially since the Jackets are famous for grinding out long, time-consuming drives that have opposing teams scratching their heads wondering where the game went to in the fourth quarter.

“You do take notice that they’re going to run the clock and run the ball. It’s going to be a very short game if you’re not careful. You’ll look up, and you will not have had enough drives and enough opportunities,” Anderson says.

The running game for the Tar Heels has left more to be desired thus far this season. Anderson says he hopes that one back will eventually emerge as the dominant rusher, but for now he says it will be a committee effort.

“We’re always looking for a guy to emerge, and any of the three would be great. If it happens, we’ll all be fired up. But if not, we’ll just continue to do what we are doing,” Anderson says.

Senior offensive tackle James Hurst says he admits that the offensive line is not quite where they need to be at this stage of 2013, but he says a lot of that has to do with the extreme youth of the unit.

“We’re not there. It’s tough to say the total potential that you have. […] They’re really young. You don’t really know what kind of potential that you have until you get those guys confident and playing well,” Hurst says.

Hurst says the conference opener will go a long way to deciding who will play for the ACC Championship come December. In effect, Hurst says this game is a must-win.

“You really want to keep your fate in your own hands as far as tiebreakers and all that stuff. If you win them all you don’t have to worry about that. So this our first one, and we got to win it,” Hurst says.