Replays go Yellow Jackets’ way

There are Georgia Tech fans who are convinced that the ACC conspires against the Yellow Jackets — how else to explain that North Carolina (ahem, commissioner John Swofford’s alma mater) has had an open date before facing Tech four times in the past six years?

They will have a hard time explaining what happened in the second quarter at the goal line at the south end zone — and on the replay afterward. On fourth-and-goal from the North Carolina 1-yard line, B-back David Sims took a handoff from quarterback Justin Thomas and leaped for the goal line. Safety Tre Boston collided with him and, somewhere mid-flight, Sims lost control of the ball.

The play was ruled a touchdown on the field, but went to replay review. Whether one believes Sims lost control of the ball probably depends on whether one’s wardrobe is filled with baby blue or white and gold. Sims himself wasn’t sure.

“When they said it was a touchdown, I was thankful,” said Sims, who demonstrated his thankfulness with an exuberant celebration on the sideline.

Where an overruled call would have given the Tar Heels a boost as well as the ball with a 13-0 lead, the touchdown kept Tech in the game at 13-7. As for coach Paul Johnson’s call to go for it on fourth-and-goal?

“What we do, if we can’t make it half a yard, we’re probably not going to win,” he said.

Every replay call Saturday was ruled in Tech’s favor.

Said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora, “Every single one of those things were close, evidently, and every one of them went their way.”

Sounds like a conspiracy.

Not much diamond: After surprising Duke last week with its diamond formation and forcing North Carolina to adjust the defensive game plan it had been preparing since the summer, Tech ran about five plays out of the formation. The Jackets ran it three times in a three-and-out possession in the second quarter.

In the diamond, the quarterback lines up in a shotgun formation, with the A-backs flanking him and the B-back right behind him.

“I think it was just a matter of coach Johnson wanted to get our offense going because he knew what would win the game,” quarterback Vad Lee said.

Defense stands up: After shutting out North Carolina over the final 39:18, Tech has allowed only seven points in the second half of its three games this season. The pattern actually dates to the last two games of last season, as Tech shut out Florida State in the second half of the ACC Championship game and USC in the Sun Bowl. The seven points were scored by Duke last week.

“I thought our defense played very well in the second half,” Johnson said. “Clearly, I think we’re ahead of where we were at this time last year, no question.”

Injury report: Outside linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and safeties Chris Milton and Jamal Golden all left the game early with injuries. Golden returned, but left again with what appeared to be an upper-body injury. Nealy was replaced by freshman Paul Davis. Milton and Golden’s subs were Demond Smith and Domonique Noble.

On the North Carolina drive following Tech’s go-ahead score in the third quarter, Noble broke up a pass intended for tight end Eric Ebron and then made a solid one-on-one tackle on the next play.

“Those kids, the moment wasn’t too big for them,” Johnson said of Smith and Noble. “They stepped up and played.”

Johnson did not have an update on any of the three players afterward. Lee briefly left the game early in the second quarter after getting the wind knocked out of him. Thomas came in to finish Tech’s first touchdown drive and was replaced in the next series by Lee.

Special breakup: Noble also broke up the pass on North Carolina’s two-point conversion after its first touchdown. Special-teams coordinator David Walkosky prepared the unit for the play, where the Tar Heels deployed most of their line to the left with the long snapper, holder and kicker in the middle of the field. Holder Tommy Hibbard attempted a pass to kicker Thomas Moore, but Noble batted it away.

“It was there, and we didn’t execute,” Fedora said. “The guy was open.”

Etc.: Punter Sean Poole had a standout game, as the punt team netted 40.8 yards on four punts. … Seven NFL scouts were credentialed for the game, as were representatives from the Orange, Chick-fil-A and Russell Athletic bowls. … Team captains were center Jay Finch, outside linebacker Brandon Watts, middle linebacker Daniel Drummond and Sims. The honorary captain was former Jacket running back Robert Lavette, the school’s all-time leading rusher. … Thanks to the work of groundskeeper Jon DeWitt, the footing on the field was not a problem despite the heavy rains.

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