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.

***Listen to the story***

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.

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

Marquise Williams (UNC Athletics)

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.

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

Rameses watches on (Elliott Rubin)

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.


Tar Heels Jacked Up For the Jackets

CHAPEL HILL – The Georgia Tech triple option offense has proven to be Carolina’s undoing in years past, but senior quarterback Bryn Renner says he is encouraged by his team’s progress over the last couple weeks as the Tar Heels get set for the Saturday showdown.

Renner says despite the Yellow Jacket offense receiving all the hype, their defense still presents some big challenges for the UNC offense.

“I watched the old games, and they are very sound technically. They’re not going to do much to confuse you, but they are going to be very sound fundamentally. You have to execute. You are going to have to make plays to beat them,” Renner says.

Keeping the Carolina defense off the field in Atlanta on Saturday will be key, especially since Renner says the ball controlling Georgia Tech offense has a way of wearing down opposing defenses if given the opportunity.

“Punting the football means you’re probably not going to get it for at least five minutes. You’re going to be off the field. So we are going to have to convert and keep our defense off the field,” Renner says.

Renner says one of his offensive goals is to distribute the ball more frequently to talented receiver Quinshad Davis.

“Him getting involved more is definitely a key. They know who he is now. You know, he’s not a freshman anymore. But we’re going to try and get him the ball as much as possible,” Renner says.

Senior defensive tackle Tim Jackson says the number sixty-eight has been on the minds of the defense for a while now, sixty-eight being the Yellow Jackets’ tally a year ago against the Tar heels. He says he and his teammates are eager to make amends on Saturday.

“It’s definitely something the defense talks about. We’ve talked about it since the day it happened and making sure it doesn’t happen again. […] We all took it personal, and we want to make sure it doesn’t happen this week,” Jackson says.

Personally, Jackson says Georgia Tech is one of only two teams in the ACC he has yet to beat. He says as a senior, he understands this is his final crack at the win.

And that “crack” will come this Saturday at noon.


Coach Fedora: ‘We Got A Chance’

CHAPEL HILL – Tar Heel fans would no doubt like to forget last season’s humiliating 68-50 loss to the Yellow Jackets in Chapel Hill. But Coach Fedora says he is not pinning all the blame for that debacle on the defense.

“Everybody jumped all over the defense, but it was not a one-sided deal. It was not just the defense that gave up problems. Especially with an offense like theirs, that is very productive and difficult to defend, you cannot give them extra possessions, and you can’t give up points in the special teams,” Coach Fedora says.

Coach Fedora says he changed up some things this year in the bye week in order to focus all of Carolina’s time and energy on getting revenge against Georgia Tech.

“We really spent almost all of our time where we didn’t the previous year. We were still trying to learn what we were doing offensively and defensively and spend time on us. This year we spent quite a bit more time on Georgia Tech,” Coach Fedora says.

Cut blocking, so popular with Coach Paul Johnson’s Tech team, is always a controversial topic in college football, but Coach Fedora says he has no issues with the strategy.

“It doesn’t really matter what I think, it is part of the game. It is actually part of the game. In Paul’s offense, they’re able to take advantage of it. We could do it, but with what we do it doesn’t fit as much for us. It is legal and part of the game,” Coach Fedora says.

The Tar Heels haven’t won an away contest against Georgia Tech in sixteen years. Coach Fedora says there is only one formula to reverse that trend, but in general, he doesn’t take too much stock into those kinds of streaks.

“Well the only way to do that is to win, right? I didn’t know it was sixteen years, and now I’m scared,” Coach Fedora jokes. “I don’t put a whole lot of stock in that. We don’t control any of those things that happened the last sixteen years, so I don’t see that plays a part in this year’s team and what we are doing at this time.”

So, how aggressive will the Carolina defense be this weekend in Atlanta against the triple option? Coach Fedora says they must strike that fine balance with contained, disciplined aggression.

“It boils down to being very disciplined. You can still play hard and be disciplined. So if we play hard, and we got a lot of guys running to the football, we got a chance,” Coach Fedora says.

That “chance” will come at high noon on Saturday for the Tar Heels. The game will be broadcast nationwide on ESPN. Pregame coverage on WCHL begins at 9:00 a.m. with Countdown to Kickoff presented by UNC Health Care followed by The Good Sports with Art C. and BobLee at 10:00 a.m. before we send you to Atlanta with the Tar Heel Sports Network at 11:00 a.m.