Georgia Tech’s defense stiffens after poor start

North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron was slow to get up after taking a big hit from Georgia Tech safety Domonique Noble in the third quarter.

For much of the first half Ebron ran through Tech’s secondary for big gains as North Carolina’s offense rolled, but eventually the Yellow Jackets put up more of a fight.

The Jackets allowed no points in the second half of their 28-20 victory after they had trouble getting any stops early in the game. Defensive coordinator Ted Roof’s unit allowed only 62 yards after halftime to pass its biggest test of the season so far.

“I think we were just a little jittery,” Tech defensive end Jeremiah Attaochu said. “We had to settle down. At halftime, coach Roof was telling us we can’t play any worse than we did in the first half, and we were still down only six. Go back to the basics.”

While building a 20-7 lead early in the second quarter, the Tar Heels gained 223 yards on 27 plays (8.3 average) with 11 first downs. After that, they managed 96 yards on 26 plays (3.7 average) with five first downs.

North Carolina threatened to score after Tech took a 28-10 lead. A pass-interference penalty against Tech’s Louis Young put the Heels at the Tech 42-yard line.

But on third down Tech’s Jemea Thomas tipped Bryn Renner’s pass, and Young intercepted it.

“I think we got a lot more aggressive instead of waiting,” Young said. “Give the punch to them. There were a couple balls in the air that, earlier, we probably could have made plays on. Second half we just kind of dug deep, leaned on each other and got aggressive.”

After Young’s interception, the Jackets forced a three-and-out on North Carolina’s next possession. Tech’s offense closed the victory with a 13-play drive.

The Jackets put more pressure on Renner in the second half after he often stood unhurried in the pocket early.

“I think it was key,” Tech coach Paul Johnson said. “The defensive staff, I thought, made some good adjustments at halftime. And Jeremiah turned it up a notch in the second half. He was applying some pressure off the edge, got a couple holding calls (by the offense) and was really playing hard.”

Once Tech defenders started to bother him, Renner had trouble finding Ebron. The 6-foot-4, 245-pound junior had five catches for 95 yards and a touchdown in the first half, but managed one reception for 13 yards after halftime.

“He’s a big dude, good hands, good routes,” Young said. “We had to fight. You can’t go in soft against him.”

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