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Georgia Tech Upends No. 13/11 UNC

THE FLATS – Georgia Tech football played lockdown defense and scored 21 unanswered points over the final 30:48 of the game to upset No. 13/11 North Carolina on the road, 21-17, at Kenan Stadium on Saturday night.

The Yellow Jackets (5-6, 4-4 ACC) extinguished the red-hot Tar Heels (9-2, 6-1 ACC) and Heisman Trophy candidate quarterback Drake Maye, holding them to 17 points, 365 yards of total offense, 202 passing yards, zero passing touchdowns and a 53% completion percentage, all season-lows for UNC. Georgia Tech’s win snapped North Carolina’s six-game winning streak and likely ended the Heels’ College Football Playoff hopes.

Pressure in the backfield ignited the defensive effort for Tech, as it recorded a season-high six sacks and a season-high-tying 12 tackles for loss on the night. Defensive linemen Keion White and D’Quan Douse led the attack with four and two tackles for loss apiece, while Key sacked Maye three times.

White’s career day also included seven tackles, while linebackers Ayinde Eley and Charlie Thomas also topped the Yellow Jackets with nine and seven stops, respectively.

Offensively, Georgia Tech got things going at the end of the first half when it scored the first of its 21-straight points on a 2-yard rush by Dontae Smith. Smith’s team-best fifth touchdown run of the season capped a nine-play, 84-yard drive and sent the Yellow Jackets into halftime trailing just 17-7.

Tech cut the deficit to 17-14 midway through the third period when quarterback Taisun Phommachanh plunged into the end zone from 4 yards out to finish off a nine-play, 68-yard scoring drive.

Later in the third quarter, it looked as though UNC would extend its lead when it drove deep into Tech territory. However, defensive back LaMiles Brooks thwarted the Tar Heels’ scoring opportunity when he intercepted Maye at the GT 19 yard line. Not only did Brooks’ team-leading third interception of the season keep North Carolina from extending its lead, but it kick-started a nine-play, 81-yard scoring drive for the Yellow Jackets. The would-be game-winning drive included a 40-yard run by wide receiver Malachi Carter on only the second carry of his five-year collegiate career and a 6-yard touchdown run by Hassan Hall that gave the Jackets a 21-17 lead with 11:08 to go.

From there, Georgia Tech’s defense made the lead stand up over UNC’s next two possessions and the offense picked up three first downs to milk the final 4:10 off the clock and nail down the Jackets’ second-straight win over a nationally ranked opponent (Tech beat No. 24 Pitt, 26-21, in Brent Key’s first game as interim head coach on Oct. 1).

Georgia Tech outgained North Carolina by a 202-108 margin in the second half and limited the Tar Heels to 1 yard or less on four of their final six possessions of the ballgame.

Tech quarterbacks Zach Gibson and Phommachanh split snaps throughout the ballgame and outshined the highly acclaimed Maye, combining to throw for 187 yards (174 for Gibson on an ultra-efficient 13-of-16 passing) and run for 53 more (44 for Phommachanh). Hall led all players with 154 all-purpose yards (47 rushing, 57 receiving and 50 on kickoff returns). Filling in for injured starter Nate McCollum, wide receiver Malik Rutherford led all players with six receptions and paced the Yellow Jackets with 68 receiving yards.

The rally from the early 17-0 deficit was the largest comeback for a road win in Georgia Tech history and the second-biggest deficit that it has ever overcome in a victory.

Georgia Tech concludes the regular season next Saturday when it visits archrival and No. 1-ranked Georgia. Kickoff is scheduled for noon ET and will be broadcast live on ESPN.

Keion White (above) records one of his sacks during a career day that included four tackles for loss and seven tackles overall. (photo: Jake Pierce)

 

Postgame Notes

Team Notes

  • Georgia Tech moved to 5-6 overall and 4-4 in Atlantic Coast Conference play, while No. 13/11 North Carolina fell to 9-2 overall and 6-1 in the ACC.
  • Georgia Tech finished ACC play with its first conference record of .500 or better since 2018.
  • Georgia Tech moved to 4-3 overall under interim head coach Brent Key, which includes a 2-0 record versus nationally ranked teams (Tech won 26-21 at No. 24 Pitt in Key’s first game as interim head coach on Oct. 1).
  • Georgia Tech has won consecutive games versus nationally ranked opponents for the first time since it beat No. 18/17 Clemson, 28-6, on Nov. 15, 2014 and No. 9/10 Georgia, 30-24 in overtime, on Nov. 29, 2014.
  • Georgia Tech has won consecutive road games versus nationally ranked opponents for the first time since it won at No. 3 Miami (Fla.), 14-10, on Nov. 19, 2005 and at No. 11/10 Virginia Tech, 38-27, on Sept. 30, 2006.
  • Georgia Tech has won consecutive road games versus nationally ranked opponents in the same season for the first time since it won at No. 20/18 Clemson, 28-24, on Sept. 11, 2004 and at No. 23 Maryland, 20-7, on Oct. 9, 2004.
  • Georgia Tech’s 17-point deficit (the Yellow Jackets trailed 17-0 with less than a minute to go in the first half) was the second-largest deficit that Tech has ever overcome in a win (prev.: 21 points – 38-17 – in a 41-28 win vs. No.7/6 Virginia – Oct. 17, 1998). It was the largest deficit that Tech has ever overcome in a road game (prev.: 16 – 28-12 – at No. 13 Georgia – Nov. 29, 2008).
  • Georgia Tech moved to 32-22-3 all-time versus North Carolina.
  • The win was Georgia Tech’s second-straight at North Carolina’s Kenan Stadium (38-28 in 2018), its second-straight overall versus the Tar Heels (45-22 in 2021) and its fourth in its last five meetings against UNC.
  • Georgia Tech outgained North Carolina, 373-365, including a 202-108 yardage advantage in the second half.
  • Georgia Tech held North Carolina, which came into the game ranked third nationally in passing offense (341.6 yards per game) to 202 yards through the air, 139 yards below the Tar Heels’ season average.
  • Georgia Tech held North Carolina, which came into the game ranked fourth nationally in total offense (505.5 yards per game) to 365 total yards, 140 yards below the Tar Heels’ season average.
  • Georgia Tech held North Carolina, which came into the game ranked 10th nationally in scoring offense (40.1 points per game) to 17 points, 23 points below the Tar Heels’ season average.
  • North Carolina’s 17 points, 365 total yards and 202 passing yards were all season lows (prev. 27 points at Miami (Fla.) – Oct. 8; 367 total yards vs. Notre Dame – Sept. 24; 284 passing yards at Georgia State – Sept. 10)
  • Georgia Tech’s six sacks were a season high (prev.: 5 vs. Virginia Tech – Nov. 5) and its most since it had eight against then-No. 21 North Carolina (Sept. 25, 2021).
  • Georgia Tech’s 12 tackles for loss matched a season high (prev.: 12 vs. Ole Miss – Sept. 17).
  • Georgia Tech played without the top two quarterbacks on its depth chart – So. Jeff Sims, who missed his fourth-straight game due to a foot injury, and Fr. Zach Pyron, who sustained a season-ending clavicle injury last Saturday vs. Miami (Fla.).
  • Georgia Tech also played without So. WR Nate McCollum (upper body injury). McCollum entered the week ranked fourth in the ACC with 54 receptions.

 

Individual Notes

  • r-So. QB Zach Gibson made his second start of the season for Georgia Tech (prev.: at Florida State – Oct. 29).
  • Gibson completed 13-of-18 passes for 174 yards, all Georgia Tech career highs.
  • r-So. QB Taisun Phommachanh (in his first season at Georgia Tech after transferring from Clemson) made his first appearance as a Yellow Jacket.
  • Phommachanh finished with 44 rushing yards and a touchdown in his first game at Georgia Tech.
  • r-Fr. WR Malik Rutherford made his first-career start in place of McCollum and set career highs with six receptions (prev.: 5 vs. Pitt – Oct. 2, 2021) and 68 receiving yards (prev.: 62 vs. Pitt – Oct. 2, 2021).
  • r-Sr. DL Keion White, who is from nearby Garner, N.C., set Georgia Tech career highs with 3.0 sacks (prev.: 2.0 vs. Clemson – Sept. 5) and 4.0 tackles for loss (prev.: 2.0, three times, last vs. Virginia – Oct. 20).
Running back Hassan Hall (3 – above) had a huge day with 154 all-purpose yards (47 rushing, 57 receiving and 50 on kickoff returns) and the game-winning touchdown in Georgia Tech’s 21-17 win at No. 13/11 North Carolina (photo: Jake Pierce)

 

Multimedia

Coach Key Postgame Press Conference (Video)

Coach Key Postgame Press Conference (Audio)

Student-Athletes Postgame Press Conference

Game Highlights (ACC Digital Network)

Condensed Game (ACC Digital Network)

Entire Game (ACC Digital Network)

Around Social Media

Competitive Drive Initiative

In a unified endeavor, Georgia Tech, the Georgia Tech Foundation, Georgia Tech athletics and the Alexander-Tharpe Fund have come together to accelerate funding for student-athlete scholarships with the launch of the Competitive Drive Initiative. The initiative kicks off with the Accelerate GT Match Program, where any new gift to the A-T Fund’s Athletic Scholarship Fund made through Dec. 31 will be matched dollar-for-dollar by the Georgia Tech Foundation, up to $2.5 million. Should Accelerate GT reach its $2.5 million fundraising goal, the matching gift would result in a $5 million impact for Georgia Tech athletics. To learn more and to contribute online, visit atfund.org/accelerate.

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