Oct. 17, 2014
By Jon Cooper
The Good Word
Georgia Tech tries to get bounce back from its first loss of the season when it visits North Carolina in a special Saturday night matchup at Kenan Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:00 p.m. and the game can be seen on ESPNU.
For the Yellow Jackets, getting back on track might mean living in the fast lane, as North Carolina can light it up offensively. The Tar Heels are third in the ACC and 26th in the country in scoring, averaging 37.2 ppg and they’re 24th in plays, getting off 78.0 plays per game. Of course, they’re also last in the conference in scoring defense, total defense and pass defense and are second-to-last in rushing defense, ahead of only Duke.
The Jackets lost to Duke in their last game, a 31-25 loss, at Bobby Dodd Stadium. In a game delayed 77 minutes by lightning prior to the start of the second half, Tech barely outrushed Duke (282-250) although they outgained them (483-373). But they lost the turnover battle, 3-0, all three coming in the second half, lost time of possession over the final three quarters, and could not stop Duke on third down, allowing them to convert five of seven as the Blue Devils built up an 31-12 lead. The Jackets also struggled in the red zone, converting only one touchdown over the first three quarters, while settling for two field goals, while Duke hit the end zone four times in five tries and made a field goal the other time.
Quarterback Justin Thomas toughed it out, running for 119 yards, before he had to leave the game in the fourth quarter with a bad ankle, and B-Back Zach Laskey added 72 yards on the ground with a touchdown. QB Tim Byerly, in relief of Thomas, made things interesting, leading a pair of late scoring drives, but the Blue Devils recovered a pair of onside kicks to fend off the Jackets. ILB Quayshawn Nealy led the defense with 10 tackles (eight solo and two for loss), while WILL linebacker Paul Davis was right behind him at eight, six of those solo and one for loss.
The Tar Heels dropped their fourth straight game last weekend, 50-43, at Notre Dame, despite a monster day by quarterback Marquise Williams. Williams, the ACC Offensive Back of the Week, became the first quarterback in UNC history to throw for at least 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game, throwing for 303 yards and two touchdowns, while running for a career-best 132 and another score. Mack Hollins was Williams’ main target, pulling in six passes for 84 yards and a touchdown. The Tar Heels let a 14-0 first-quarter lead get away, then rallied from nine points down (35-26) in the third to regain the lead, 36-35. But they could not hold off the Fighting Irish, committing a key turnover in the red zone that led to an insurance score. Des Lawrence led the defense with eight tackles (all solo) and a TFL.
The Yellow Jackets enter play tonight second in the Coastal at 2-1, just behind 2-0 Virginia, which had a bye last week, and just ahead of Duke, Virginia Tech and Pittsburgh, who are nipping at their heels at 1-1. Carolina is 0-2 in ACC play, but Tech Head Coach Paul Johnson is wary of the Heels’ big-play capabilities.
“I think we’ve got to stay away from giving up the big plays,” said Johnson. “We have to play rush defense. We can’t let people run the ball. Duke ran the ball on us very effectively. That was disappointing. We’ve got to try to get some turnovers. We aren’t doing a very good job of getting the ball out. There’s a lot of things we can do better, just like on offense, a lot of things on defense we can do better.”
Here are some numbers to get you better prepared for the Ramblin’ Wreck’s match-up tonight.
The Series: Tonight is the 50th meeting between the schools, with Georgia Tech holding a 28-18 edge. The Jackets are riding a five-game winning streak and having won 14 of the last 16 meetings. Tech is 10-11-3 all-time in Chapel Hill but 2-1 under Paul Johnson and has won three of the last four, including the incredible 68-50 track meet in its last visit on Nov. 10, 2012.
.589 – Georgia Tech’s nation-leading third-down conversion rate in 2014. The Yellow Jackets have converted 43 times on 73 attempts. North Carolina’s opponents have converted 48.5 percent of the time (48-for-99), second-worst in the ACC, ahead of only NC State’s 51.5 percent.
.700 – Georgia Tech’s touchdown percentage in the red zone. The Jackets have reached the end zone 21 times in 30 visits. That percentage took a hit last week when they only made it three times in six tries.
2 – The rank of redshirt sophomore QB Justin Thomas in rushing among FBS quarterbacks. He’s averaging 98.2 ypg, second only to Boston College’s Tyler Murphy (118.5).
13.8 – The amount by which Thomas has exceeded his season rushing yards per game over the last four games. Thomas has rushed for 448 yards in those games, with three of those being 100-yard games.
3/8 – The number of ACC quarterbacks and FBS QBs that leads their team in rushing and passing. Thomas is one. UNC’s Marquise Williams is another.
3.6 – The number of carries it takes QB Tim Byerly to get into the end zone. Byerly has scored on five of his 18 attempts.
4 – The number of touchdowns DeAndre Smelter has through six games. That matches last season’s total in 13.
15 – The number of receiving yards by which Smelter has already passed his 2013 total. He enters tonight’s game with 360 yards, including a long of 71. He is six receptions shy of tying last year’s receptions total.
4 – The number of TDs scored by Duke in five trips to the red zone last week.
5 – The total number of touchdowns scored by opponents on trips to the red zone in the first five games.
5 – The career-high number of catches last week by WR Darren Waller. He had two on the season entering last week’s game.
5/15 – The career-high number of tackles for loss and lost yardage in those TFLs by senior linebacker Quayshawn Nealy. His 5.0 stops behind the line best his career-high of 3.5 in each of the last two seasons, while his minus-31 yards just about double his previous best (minus-16) set in 2012.
6 – The career-high number of tackles made by freshman DE KeShun Freeman against Duke. That included a tackle for loss, which gives him 5.0 on the season, tying him with Nealy for the team lead.
6 – The number of different Yellow Jackets that scored touchdowns in the last meeting with UNC at Kenan Stadium. QBs Tevin Washington and Vad Lee, CB Jamal Golden, A-Backs Robbie Godhigh and Orwin Smith and B-Back David Sims each hit paydirt.
7 – The number of rushing touchdowns scored by Georgia Tech in the 2012 shootout. Washington (25-yards), Lee (two 1-yarders), Sims (11) Godhigh (4 and 27), and Smith (22) all ran one in.
1 – The number of Georgia Tech touchdown passes in the game. Godhigh caught the Jackets’ only TD pass, a 32-yard scoring aerial from Lee.
6:42 – The amount of time it took Godhigh to score three touchdowns, all in the third quarter, in the last game at UNC. Godhigh scored at 9:52 on a four-yard run, ran 27 yards at 6:21 for his second score, then completed the hat trick with a 32-yard TD catch from Lee with 3:10 left. He outscored UNC, 21-14, in the frame.
7 – Jamal Golden’s rank in Georgia Tech history in kick returns. Golden has 1,225 yards in returns for his career.
40 – The number of return yards Golden needs to move past Charlie Rogers (1995-98).
12 – Golden’s FBS rank in combined return yards. His 458 yards (434 kickoff, 24 punt) lead the ACC.
100 – The length of Golden’s kickoff return for a touchdown the last time the Jackets came to Chapel Hill. It’s tied for the second-longest return in school history with Dez White’s against Maryland in 1998 and Drew Hill’s against Georgia in 1978.
9 – The number of times in the last 10 games that the Yellow Jackets have won when rushing rushed for 300 yards. They’re on a six-game winning streak in such games heading into tonight’s game.
56 – The number of rushing yards senior B-Back Zach Laskey needs to move past former Heisman Trophy runner-up and current assistant coach Joe Hamilton and into 19th place overall.
118 – The number of combined points in the 2012 game, It’s the most points ever scored in an ACC game, blowing past Virginia’s 63-47 win over Tulane in 1968. Tech’s 68 points rank third all-time in school history and are the most in an ACC game, in the modern era, while the 40 second-half points rank as eighth-most in a half and are the most in an ACC half.
1,085 – The number of yards of total offense in the 2012 game. Georgia Tech had 588 of those.
10 Things To Know About North Carolina (including why you should tip your hat to UNC’s head coach)
1 – The number of rushing touchdowns junior quarterback Marquise Williams needs to tie Ronald Curry for most career rushing touchdowns by a UNC QB, with 13. Williams has played 31 games, six fewer than Curry. Williams’ next passing touchdown also ties Curry for seventh place all-time in career touchdown passes with 28.
2 – The number of touchdown catches junior wide receiver Quinshad Davis needs to tie Hakeem Nicks (21) for the most in school history. Davis, who comes into the game tied with Octavus Barnes (1994-97) for TD catches, has 127 career catches, and is two away from moving into the top 10 in school history, tying Barnes.
5 – The number of consecutive games, counting tonight, against teams that are or were ranked in the top-25. North Carolina, who plays the nation’s 14th-toughest schedule according to the Sagarin rankings, and toughest in the ACC, has played in succession, East Carolina, Clemson, Virginia Tech and Notre Dame. They are 0-4 in that stretch.
51 – The number of points Carolina has allowed in those four games. They surrendered 70 to ECU, 50 each to Clemson and Notre Dame and 34 against Virginia Tech.
26.7 – The difference in points per game allowed at home and on the road. UNC has allowed 56.7 points per game (170) in its three road games, at ECU (70), Clemson (50) and Notre Dame (50), but has allowed only 30 ppg (90) in its three games at home against Liberty (29), San Diego State (27) and Virginia Tech (34).
20 – The number of touchdowns North Carolina has scored in 27 red zone possessions. That’s 74.1 percent. Throw in five field goals and the Heels have scored 25 times, or 92.6 percent of the time.
5 – The number of players that have thrown at least one touchdown pass this season. Williams has 11 of them, redshirt freshman quarterback Mitch Trubisky has two, and sophomore wide receiver Ryan Switzer, junior wide receiver Davis and senior punter Tommy Hibbard have one each.
10.2 – The edge in plays per game that North Carolina runs over Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels run 78 plays per game vs. 67.8 for the Jackets. That edge doesn’t appear to be helping the Heels’ defense rest, as it is spotting the Jackets 8:07 per game in average time of possession. UNC is last in T.O.P. in the ACC, holding the ball 24:38, and allows their opponents to run 86.3 plays per game.
57 – The number of places that North Carolina has moved up nationally in forcing turnovers. The Tar Heels come into tonight’s game ranked 14th in the nation in turnovers gained, with 15 (nine interceptions, six fumble recoveries). Last season they were 71st. The Heels are 11th in interceptions, having picked off nine passes (second in the ACC), at least one in each game, and returning a third of them for touchdowns (tops in the conference). At plus-3, UNC is 30th in the nation and tied for fourth in the ACC.
0 – The number of North Carolina coaches since 1953 that have posted as many as 15 win in his first two seasons, prior to Larry Fedora’s arrival. He’s also the first coach since Ray Wolf in 1936-37 to put up back-to-back winning seasons in his first two years as Carolina coach.
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