Georgia Tech improved to 3-1 overall and 2-0 in the ACC with a dominating 33-7 win over North Carolina on Saturday, ending the Tar Heels’ three-game win streak in the series. An evaluation of the proceedings at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The Yellow Jackets finished with 403 rushing yards, their third game out of four over the 400-yard mark. It ties the 2008, 2009 and 2014 teams (arguably coach Paul Johnson’s best) for the most 400-yard games in his tenure. If nits can be picked, it was not the most consistent rushing game. Quarterback TaQuon Marshall and B-back KirVonte Benson accounted for 128 of those yards on two plays in a three-play stretch. The Jackets averaged 4.3 yards per carry on the other 64 attempts. Tech did it with a depleted offensive line. Starting left tackle Jahaziel Lee did not play because of injury and guard Shamire Devine left the game with an upper-body injury. Walk-on Bailey Ivemeyer came in at left tackle. Undoubtedly, Johnson was unhappy about Tech’s three fumbles, particularly after the Jackets lost four against Pitt. Benson lost the ball going into the end zone that was recovered by North Carolina.
Marshall was sacked three times as the Jackets had difficulty against North Carolina’s scheme, which included shifting on the line just before the snap. Marshall was 5-for-10 for 53 yards and a touchdown to wide receive Ricky Jeune. He was off target on a couple of throws.
Credit to the Tech line, notably tackles Desmond Branch, Brentavious Glanton and Kyle Cerge-Henderson, for filling gaps and making interior running tough for the Tar Heels. North Carolina finished with 75 yards on 23 carries, which followed Tech holding Pitt to 37 rushing yards on 20 carries. Linebacker Victor Alexander had a strong game of run support, picking up five tackles.
The Jackets covered well, getting credited with three pass breakups and giving the front time to get to quarterback Chazz Surratt. Safety A.J. Gray had two interceptions. The first was particularly impressive, in which he ranged from the backside of the play to jump a crossing pattern and give Tech the ball after Marshall had fumbled the ball away on the previous Tech possession. The pass rush largely did well to keep the mobile Surratt in the pocket, which once led to a sack by cornerback Step Durham. Tech’s play, while impressive, should be tempered with the reality that North Carolina’s skill players have been seriously depleted by injury. Safety Corey Griffin will likely be agonizing over two would-be interceptions that he dropped.
The kicking-game effort was noteworthy for the debut of kicker Brenton King, who was successful on a point-after try in the third quarter, later made a 25-yard field goal and took the final two kickoffs. A low first-quarter kickoff by Shawn Davis was brought back to the UNC 44-yard line. Davis was successful on a 21-yard field goal. The return game was again not substantial.
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