September 9, 2017 Atlanta - Georgia Tech head coach Paul Johnson watches from the sideline in the first half of the Georgia Tech home opener at Bobby Dodd Stadium on Saturday, September 9, 2017. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM
Photo: Hyosub Shin/
Photo: Hyosub Shin/

Georgia Tech’s simple plan for North Carolina’s up-tempo offense

Georgia Tech’s plan for thwarting the effect of North Carolina’s uptempo pace could be a simple one – don’t stay on the field long on defense.

The Tar Heels have scored an average of 44.7 points in the past three matchups with the Yellow Jackets, all wins for North Carolina. In those games, the Tar Heels’ third-down rate was a combined 20-for-36, and they ran 215 snaps, 71.7 per game. With the speed at which the Tar Heels’ offense races from one snap to the next, it can wear down defenses and create confusion as players get in place for the next down.

Through three games, Tech’s defensive third-down rate is 26.5 percent, 13th in the country, a vast improvement over last year’s rate, which was 49.2 percent, 126th in the country. Pitt was 1-for-13 against Tech on Saturday, the best defensive third-down performance in coach Paul Johnson’s tenure at Tech.

“If we’ll continue to play decent on third down, you’re not out there long,” Johnson said Wednesday after the team’s practice. “It’s the nature of what we do – we hold the ball, and if they can get off the field …”

Through three games, Tech’s defense has been on the field for only 166 plays, 55.3 per game. It’s the lowest average in FBS, and that includes the Yellow Jackets going into double overtime against Tennessee in the season opener.

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