Taking a closer look at Georgia Tech’s win over No. 21 North Carolina

Georgia Tech' quarterback Jeff Sims (10) gets off a pass at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 25, 2021. Georgia Tech won 45-22 over North Carolina. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Combined ShapeCaption
Georgia Tech' quarterback Jeff Sims (10) gets off a pass at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Saturday, September 25, 2021. Georgia Tech won 45-22 over North Carolina. (Hyosub Shin / Hyosub.Shin@ajc.com)

Georgia Tech earned its first win over a ranked opponent since 2017 Saturday night, leaving little doubt in a 45-22 win over No. 21 North Carolina at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Key play

With Tech down 7-6 and the Yellow Jackets regaining possession of the ball after a fumble recovery returned by linebacker Demetrius Knight to the UNC 17-yard line with 3:23 left in the second half, quarterback Jeff Sims scored on an 11-yard keeper up the middle on his first possession of the game. The score and ensuing point-after try gave the Jackets a 13-7 lead and propelled Sims to a monster performance.

Key stat

Tech’s eight sacks of quarterback Sam Howell were the product of quick wins off the snap, speed off the edge and coverage in the secondary forcing Howell to hold onto the ball. They were no small factor in the Tar Heels finishing the game 5-for-14 on third downs. It was Tech’s most since an eight-sack game against Duke in 2007. The Jackets had two sacks in their first three games.

Game ball

Coming in for starting quarterback Jordan Yates, Sims was a game-changing force. Running for a career-high 128 yards while completing 10 of 13 passes for 112 yards with one touchdown and no interceptions, Sims led the Jackets to five touchdowns and a field goal in seven possessions that didn’t involve kneel-downs.

What we learned

At the least, Tech looks like it will be a competitor in the ACC and perhaps even more than that. With a near upset of six-time defending league champion Clemson the previous Saturday and a thorough defeat of the favorite to win the Coastal Division on Saturday, the possibilities have opened for the Jackets.

Quote of the game

“I think that it’s a great win. Like I said, to beat a ranked team is cool, but we know we can do a lot more.” -- Tech wide receiver Malachi Carter

What’s next

Tech will play Pittsburgh at noon Saturday at Bobby Dodd Stadium on ACC Network. The Panthers obliterated FCS New Hampshire 77-7 on Saturday to improve to 3-1. The game will be Pitt’s ACC opener. The Panthers have won three in a row over the Jackets, including a 34-20 win last year at Bobby Dodd.