Izaan Cross and the Yellow Jacket Defense Makes Plays in the 4th Quarter to Preserve the Win

Holding another team to a field goal after they drive down the field to start the game is always a victory for any defense.  On this particular North Carolina drive kudos go out to nose tackle TJ Barnes who made a very nice tackle on the running back on a 3rd and 2 at the 5 yard line for no gain.  This kid has all of the physical tools and is starting to play low and making more of an impact each week.  However, this tackle inside the 5 yard line on a critical 3rd down stopped the Tar Heel drive cold forcing a field goal attempt.  Great job TJ!  Keep up the stout physical play going forward the rest of the season!

So after taking a 3 to 0 lead after a long drive the Tar Heels kick off to the Yellow Jackets.  Joshua Nesbitt runs the option perfectly to the short side of the field and pitches the football to Orwin Smith who runs untouched down the left sideline for a 73 yard touchdown.  Just that fast Georgia Tech takes a 7 to 3 lead.  As impressive as that long run was by Orwin, the block by receiver Kevin Cone wiping out the safety was the key to the touchdown.  Great job Kevin!  Offensive left tackle Nick Claytor also did an outstanding job of sealing off the left side of the line of scrimmage, and with Kevin’s block, the play was successful.  In fact, the offensive line and receivers were doing an outstanding job blocking the entire game.  Congratulations on a job well done!

You have to give a ton of credit to North Carolina for their effort on both sides of the line of scrimmage this game as 12 players were still not able to play due to the pre-season turmoil surrounding agent involvement and academic issues.  Despite those losses, the Tar Heels who did play were making plays and scoring touchdowns.  Right after the Yellow Jackets took the lead, TJ Yates threw a nice 52 yard touchdown pass to a receiver coming out of the backfield on a wheel route down the left sideline.  On that play our safety got caught up in a crossing route and played the short receiver while Highsmith ran untouched right past him catching the ball in stride with no defensive back in the area code for the touchdown.  These are learning mistakes that will be corrected for the future.

After we receive the ball on the kickoff, Joshua is running the option to perfection and the A-Backs are getting big chunks on the edge as the wide receivers are just doing a phenomenal job of blocking this game.  The offensive line is really getting after folks and then after marching down the field on the ground, Joshua throws a perfect pass to Roddy Jones on a wheel route release from his A-Back position in the slot for a 23 yard touchdown.  The Yellow Jackets go back up 14 to 10.  However, the Tar Heels answer with a very nice 13 play drive covering about 80 yards with quarterback TJ Yates carrying it in 1 yard for the go ahead score.  The Tar Heels ran the ball right down our throat on that drive, and I was becoming very concerned with the defense holding up its end this game.

Then the Yellow Jackets embarked on a grinding 20 play 87 yard drive the used up the entire 10 minutes and 41 seconds left on the clock in the 2nd quarter.  Although that long drive only resulted in a Scott Blair field goal, it sucked the life out of the North Carolina defense.  Most, if not all, of the 12 players suspended for this game were on the defensive side of the ball for the Tar Heels.  Being unable to rotate in fresh defensive players on a hot day when the triple option is grinding out 372 yards on the ground at the rate of almost 6 yards per play not only wears out a defense physically, it breaks their will.  That is what happened to North Carolina in this game.  That is what this offense does, and what it is designed to do; demoralize a defense.  Even though the score was tied at 17 going into halftime, the triple option had already inflicted a mortal wound to the depleted Tar Heel defense.

The frustration began to show immediately in the 2nd half when North Carolina was flagged for a personal foul late hit penalty on Joshua Nesbitt as he was running out of bounds on a pass play.  He was gouging them all day on his option runs, and this particular penalty really hurt their defense.  Right after that penalty Joshua went back to pass and was forced to his left and threw a beautiful pass across his body to Roddy Jones who caught it in stride and made several tacklers miss before he was brought down on the 5 yard line.  Joshua took it in from there and that tied the score at 24 apiece, and set the tone for the triple option offense domination the remainder of the second half.  The time of possession by the Yellow jackets in the 2nd half was 20 1/2 minutes to North Carolina’s 9 1/2 minutes.

An unfortunate movement penalty on a 4th and 1 prevented the Yellow Jackets from putting this game away with a touchdown late in the 4th quarter as they were forced to settle for another Scott Blair field goal and a 30 to 24 lead with about 6 minutes left to play in the game.  It was now up to the defense to preserve this win!  They had played great the second half forcing 2 turnovers, and were obviously well rested.  On the kickoff, true freshman linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu made a great open field tackle on the Tar Heel returner around the 15 yard line, and North Carolina was also hit with a personal foul penalty forcing them to start on their own 8 yard line.

Defensive end Izaan Cross suddenly came to life and knocked down a 3rd down pass for an incompletion then followed that up a few plays later with an 8 yard sack of quarterback TJ Yates.  It kind of reminded me of sophomore defensive end Michael Johnson’s come out game several years ago against Maryland when he had similar back to back plays to preserve a win against the Terps who were on the 5 yard line and driving for the winning touchdown at BDS.  The defense finally showed some life this game, and really looked good especially in the 2nd half.  They are obviously playing better as they get more comfortable in the Al Groh 3/4 defense.

My game ball in this game goes to Scott Blair, not for his 3 field goals, which were very good kicks by the way, but for his kickoffs to the goal line.  Those were what helped our defense stretch the field this week against North Carolina and were a major component of the success our defense had this game.  Great job Scott!  Keep that up for the rest of the season and this defense will begin to show even more success!!  1 and 0 in the ACC in our first conference road game this season.  We are starting off well this year and played much better this game on all sides of the ball.  Great job Yellow Jackets!