Georgia Tech looks for better red zone success against Virginia Tech

Justin Thomas of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rolls out under pressure from Cayson Collins #23 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the game at Kenan Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

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Justin Thomas of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets rolls out under pressure from Cayson Collins #23 of the North Carolina Tar Heels during the game at Kenan Stadium on November 5, 2016 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Georgia Tech’s five red-zone appearances in their 48-20 loss to No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday resulted in a touchdown, a field goal, a blocked field-goal attempt, a lost fumble and a turnover on downs.

The Yellow Jackets’ only scores outside the red zone were a touchdown by way of an 83-yard pass from quarterback Justin Thomas to A-back Clinton Lynch in the first quarter and a 42-yard field goal on Tech’s first possession of the second half, their final score of the game. The Jackets reached the North Carolina 20-yard line on a third-and-3, but were unable to convert, forcing the field goal.

After a game filled with confusion, penalties and a physical North Carolina defense, the Jackets know they’ll have to run their routes more quickly because this week’s opponent, No. 14 Virginia Tech, has a quick and powerful defense.

“Our attitude is too, of course is to put (the ball in the end zone) every week. We struggled last weekend, and that’s something we’re going to work on and practice,” wide receiver Ricky Juene said. “We just practice (red-zone plays). We just go over schemes and blocking and having the mentality to just punch it in. Whether it’s throwing or running.”

This season, Virginia Tech’s opponents scored a touchdown on 58 percent of drives inside the red zone.

Against Virginia Tech (7-2, 5-1) last season, the Jackets scored a touchdown on both trips inside the red zone.

“They’re very aggressive, and they’ve got good players,” coach Paul Johnson said. “I think (defensive coordinator Bud Foster) does a very good job; he has been doing it for a long time. They are who they are, they’ve got an identity and that’s the way they play.”

Against North Carolina (7-2, 5-1), the Jackets were close to punching the ball in the end zone on their fourth possession of the first half when Tech had the ball on the North Carolina’s 1 only to be pushed back with a holding penalty called on offensive lineman Shamire Devine. Tech fell back to the 12 and settled for a 23-yard field goal.

“That holding penalty down on the goal line, that’s inexcusable,” offensive line coach Mike Sewak said. “It’s not even a technique we teach. It’s just poor (judgment) on the kid, and he knows it. He shouldn’t have done it and it’s a mess-up. We should have taken care of business right there, and then we could have come right back.”

Georgia Tech had four penalties for 26 years against the Tar Heels.

On their last possession of the first half, the Jackets reached North Carolina’s 18, but were pushed back by an illegal-forward-pass penalty on Thomas. The Jackets’ failed to convert on second down or third down and settled for a 32-yard field-goal attempt, which was deflected by North Carolina safety D.J. Ford. The Jackets ended the half trailing 27-17.

“We get a field goal. We kick the field goal low,” Johnson said. “They didn’t get any real penetration on the jumper’s block, but we kick it low and that was a huge play right before half, and it cuts it to one score. Then we turn the ball over twice. Unexplainable.”

Freshman B-back Dedrick Mills was responsible for both fumbles Saturday, with one on Tech’s own 44-yard line and the other inside the red zone on the Jackets’ next possession.