With its third- and fourth-string quarterbacks leading the offense and an inspired defense bottling one of the country’s top offenses, Georgia Tech pulled off a shocker Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C.

The Yellow Jackets’ 21-17 upset was not merely a defeat of the No. 13 team in the country that was on a six-game win streak and harbored hopes of making the College Football Playoff. By coming back from a 17-0 deficit, the Jackets also scored the second largest comeback win in school history.

ExploreGeorgia Tech upsets No. 13 North Carolina on the road

Key play

On a third-and-goal play from the North Carolina 6-yard line with a little more than 11 minutes to play in the game, Tech running back Hassan Hall followed well-executed blocks by the offensive line and lead blocks by tight ends Dylan Leonard and Luke Benson to reach the end zone, plowing through safety Cam’Ron Kelly to score. The touchdown and kicker Gavin Stewart’s extra point gave the Jackets a 21-17 lead with 11:08 left in the game and capped a comeback from a 17-0 second-quarter deficit. It also flouted two Tech flaws – its inefficiency on third down (128th in FBS at 28.9%) and in the red zone (130th – second to last – in red-zone scoring rate at 67.6%).

Key stat

UNC quarterback Drake Maye was limited to 215 yards of offense (202 passing, 13 running, the latter offset by 31 yards lost by six sacks). A leading Heisman Trophy candidate, Maye entered the game averaging an FBS-leading 399.6 yards of offense per game. Before Saturday, his season low was 299 yards, against Georgia State. Tech’s two quarterbacks, Zach Gibson and Taisun Phommachanh, combined for 240 yards of offense. Defensive coordinator Andrew Thacker’s unit delivered a gem.

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Game ball

Defensive end Keion White led a superior performance by the Tech defensive line that trapped Maye for sacks six times, season highs for the Jackets and against the Tar Heels. Motivated to play a team located about 20 minutes from his hometown (Garner, N.C.) that offered him only a preferred walk-on spot rather than a scholarship, White sacked Maye three times, had four tackles for loss and seven tackles total.

What we learned

It has been evident often during interim coach Brent Key’s leadership of the team, but the Jackets displayed surpassing resilience and tenacity in pulling the upset. Weathering the loss of its first- and second-string quarterbacks (Jeff Sims and Zach Pyron, respectively) at the beginning of the week, fully investing themselves to preparing for a game in which they 21-point underdogs and then keeping their resolve after falling behind 17-0 late in the second quarter, Tech showed grit, confidence and toughness to upend the Tar Heels.

Georgia Tech 21, North Carolina 17

They said it

“I’ve got to give all credit to first coach Key and coach Thacker. What they instill in us is, play the next play. And it doesn’t matter who you’re playing against, it doesn’t matter what the situation is, you’ve just got to play the next play and you’ve got to fight, and that’s what we did (Saturday).” – White

What’s next

Tech: The Jackets (5-6, 4-4 ACC) will face archrival Georgia at noon
Saturday in Athens. The No. 1 Bulldogs handled Kentucky 16-6 on Saturday in Lexington, Ky.

North Carolina: The Tar Heels (9-2, 6-1) will finish their regular season Friday at home against archrival N.C. State. The Wolfpack lost to Louisville 25-10 on the road Saturday.