A preview of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets v. North Carolina Tar Heels

The North Carolina Tar Heels come into this game undefeated after defeating James Madison 42 to 10 to open the season; Rutgers 24 to 22; and this past weekend beat Virginia 28 to 17 to take a one game lead over Georgia Tech in the Coastal Division of the ACC.  This will also be the Tar Heels first road game of the season when they play the Yellow Jackets this Saturday at BDS.  So after three games this is a must win for Georgia Tech as the games against Coastal Division opponents result in a huge advantage for the victor and create an instant two game lead for all practical purposes.

North Carolina went into this season without their Head Football Coach Butch Davis who was terminated by the school’s president shortly after the ACC media days.  They have played quite well under their current interim head coach, Everett Withers, as they have gone undefeated to this point in their schedule.  On defense the Tar Heels went into last Saturdays game with Virginia as the third best rushing defense in the nation only allowing 30 yards per game.  They held Rutgers to a single yard rushing the week before in their 24 to 22 victory.  However, UVA went for 163 yards on the ground and averaged 5.6 yards a carry in their loss at Chapel Hill, bumping up that number to a still very impressive 76 yards per game on the ground.

This week the Tar Heels defense will face quite a challenge as the Yellow Jackets are leading the country in rushing at nearly 428 yards per game.  In addition, they are also the # 1 scoring offense averaging over 59 points per game so far this season.  This will be North Carolina’s fourth time playing against the Paul Johnson triple option which last season went for 372 yards and nearly 6 yards per carry in Georgia Tech’s victory on the road.  If memory serves me well, I recall last year Orwin Smith going 80 yards around the right side for a touchdown on an option play against the Tar Heels for their first touchdown of the game.

So for the rest of the week we will be hearing how the way to be successful against this triple option offense is to play discipline assignment football and not get away from your primary responsibility; Easier said than done.  The other factor that is always present in the Georgia Tech version of this offense is that we have the guru calling the shots and planning the next several plays as he is constantly probing the defense and able to adjust throughout the game by changing blocking schemes and running angles during the course of the contest.  That factor alone is not only a huge tactical advantage going into each and every game, but the intangible psychological advantage that is created in the mind of your opponent is incalculable.

An example of this phenomenon goes all the way back to a championship season when CPJ was coaching Georgia Southern and playing against Youngstown State coached by Jim Tressel in the championship game in Division II, now known as the FCS.  Youngstown State led the country in rushing defense giving up about 166 yards per game after already playing 14 contests, and of course GSU led the nation in rushing.  Something had to give in that playoff event.  GSU went for 638 yards on the ground in that game and obliterated Youngstown State with CPJ at the controls 59 to 24.  The prior season GSU lost in the finals to Massachusetts after turning the ball over 7 times in a close loss.

So now for the first time in the CPJ era at Georgia Tech he has been able to install larger, yet still very athletic offensive linemen to fill into the trenches as the cornerstone necessary to give the triple option offense a solid starting point up front and allow the quarterback an opportunity to make the proper reads without constantly having defensive linemen in the backfield preventing a play from being properly executed.  The challenge this week will really be on the shoulders of the big guys up front who have coined themselves the; Goon squad. 

They must perform especially well in order to give the Yellow Jackets an opportunity to move the football.  Reason being is that North Carolina has some excellent defensive talent especially on their defensive line with pre-season All American DE Quinton Coples who goes 6′ 7″ 290 Lbs. and reminds many of Julius Peppers who played the same position for the Tar Heels a while back and is still wreaking havoc in the NFL.  At DT the Tar Heels have another stud in Tydreke Powell 6′ 3″ 310 Lbs. who was one of the top DT’s in the entire country coming out of high school several years ago and is a force to be reckoned with in the middle this game.

The Tar Heels have been recruiting a bunch of those multiple stars players every season since Butch Davis became their head coach so they have quite a few talented folks on their roster.  They have 300+ Lbs. offensive linemen across the front wall to go along with a huge WR Dwight Jones who is listed at 6′ 4″ 225 Lbs. and is reminiscent of our Calvin Johnson and Demarius Thomas.  They also deploy two different types of running backs with a scat back named Giovanni Bernard at 5′ 9″ 205 Lbs., and a bigger back who played extensively last season against us; Ryan Houston 6′ 2″ 245 Lbs. who also has good speed to go along with his power.  So the defense will have their hands full in this game getting some stops and forcing the Tar Heels to punt.

This game will boil down to a team of stars playing against a team of solid role players that is performing very well with everyone contributing and playing selfless football in their designated assignments.  It will be interesting to see how the game progresses should the Yellow Jackets be able to keep up their high standards on offense by moving the football and scoring points.  What that can usually cause in a team with highly recruited players is quick dissension and an immediate departure from the game plan discipline necessary to defend against this scheme, into a freelance approach at the snap of the ball which can make this triple option offense that much more effective.

This will also be the first road trip of the year for the Tar Heels as they have had the benefit, or perhaps misfortune of becoming quite comfortable while playing their first three games at home.  I would imagine that the novelty of not only having to prepare for the triple option offense and 3/4 defense the same week you are getting used to packing for the first road game of the season will present a very unique set of challenges for North Carolina.  That is why it is so important to be extremely loud this week and cheer on the Yellow Jackets in their first ACC game of the year at BDS. 

The Tar Heels have become quite accustomed to the warmth and comforts of their home trappings so the GT fans need to step up and create the type of home environment that will add to the Tar Heels already burdensome preparation tasks as they travel on the road for the first time this season to face ACC Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech.  Go Jackets!




  • Anonymous


    As you pointed out in the article, one of the key differences this year is everyone playing as a team.  It is not all about one or two players that the opposition is able to key on — how many different Jackets have broken for big plays?  Doesn’t Georgia Tech lead the nation in plays > 20 yards?  [That’s a rhetorical question — they do].

    I agree that this will be more of a test for the Jackets, but one that they should be able to handle.  Cheer loud and long for our guys as they bring home a critical victory against a Coastal Division opponent.

    Go Jackets!

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi Jackets Dad,

      The long scoring plays have been outstanding to watch and no doubt there will be more the remainder of the year, but this offense will still produce time consuming drives.  Although he hasn’t run much, Tevin had a very nice 28 yard gain on an option play last week against the Jayhawks and look for him to carry the football more this game as the Tar Heels sell out against the dive and pitch.  But Tevin ran it well last season too.  Need another great home crowd to cheer on this TEAM!

  • wreckbone

    I think the offensive produciton is outstanding and can’t wait for the game.  I have two brothers, one a twin, who are UNC alums (Dad went to Duke so he will obviosuly pull for the Jackets!) 

    The only thing I worry about is the QB dive, is that what it’s called?  that’s where Nesbitt could take it bewteen the guard and tackle and get 3 yards almost every time.  Tevin can’t do it becaue of his size like Nesbitt.  I see this year, we opt for the B Back to plow the way or maybe it looks different.  I thought nesbitt would take a different hole than the b back but I can’t remember without looking at video.  So, my question is, what are your thoughts on short yardage plays for up the gut running?  I would love to see Synjn Days come in and do it a couple times on a third and short, then burn the defense with a pass.  But Johnson really doesn’t seem to rotate QBs.  That in my opinion is my only quesiton to this offense.  I was worried we would not have a productive offense this year and have been pleasantly surprised.  I have to admit, your optimistic preseason article on the offense almost predicted this kind of showing.  But not quite as explosive as we have seen!  I don’t think anyone saw this coming.   

    I also think the defense will do much more confusion coverage and plays.  If we can keep up the third and long scenario and hold onto the ball, the defense I htink will surprise.  Also, lets face it, Al always did good against the Tar Heels. And us.  So here’s to hoping the defense will step up! 

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi Wreckbone,

      Nice name!  This offense is very effective with the right component parts which CPJ has been putting in place for 3 years.  Although Joshua was outstanding on the QB dive between the center and guard gap on short yardage, there was always a concern that if a defense went large in the middle with 2 300+ Lbs. DT’s and shot their middle linebacker, that play would go nowhere.  However, I like the versatility that Tevin brings at QB as he has more wiggle and is very good at making the correct reads on option plays.  His skill set is such that he is quicker executing this option, and the defense can’t really cheat on him as he is very good at distributing the football.

      He doesn’t run nearly as much as Nesbitt did, which means he is feeding the ball at the correct time to the B-Back and pitching it to the trailing A-Back.  That is what makes this offense even more difficult to defend this season as the short yardage tendency whereby Nesbitt would keep the football himself the majority of the time is not permitting the defense to predict who will be carrying the football.  That opens up the defense as they cannot establish a tendency on short yardage.

      You will not see Synjyn Days come into the game exclusively on short yardage as the defense will be able to react to that by stacking the middle and having a spy on him once he enters the game in that type of situation.  What I do expect to see this season with Tevin is the “unexpected!”  He throws a very catchable ball, and at some juncture this season on a short yardage third down don’t be surprised to see a seam pass to an A-Back streaking down the middle untouched. 

      I had confidence in this team this season as I’ve see what CPJ has been bringing into the program through “HIS” recruiting, not the Stars method.  The offensive linemen are big, tough, and very athletic.  However, once David Sims obtained the B-Back position through sheer hard work I had a sense that it has become contagious and the entire group of skill/ball carriers have been stepping up big time in practice and obviously in the games.  When everyone knows that they will have an opportunity to not only play but actually contribute during the game, and not just during “garbage” time, the productivity and attitude increases exponentially.  That is what we are seeing on the field this season.  The makings of an actual TEAM!

      The defense has been plain vanilla all season long and has not needed the type of schemes available in the 3/4 to stop drives.  That is yet to be shown once we get into the meat of our ACC schedule.  Al Groh has more experience running the 3/4 that anyone else in the NFL and college.  I have faith in what he has been able to accomplish with the players from last season to now. While everyone can denigrate the competition and the results to date, rest assured that the rest of this conference is very concerned about their games against this Yellow Jacket team moving forward.

      As I said several articles ago, I was unable to ascertain the coronation of Va Tech as Coastal Division Champs in view of the fact they were replacing a 4 year starter at QB with a TE!  They have not been living up to those lofty predictions with their play this season.  I like this Georgia Tech team and am really looking forward to the game against those Tar Heels Saturday.  Go Jackets!  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/William-A-Casino-Jr/811252430 William A Casino Jr

    Hey Mike. Here it is, our first real challenge! The UNC “D” is going to give us all they got. We will certainly know if our performance thus far is a fluke resulting from inferior competition, or a truly amazing coalescence of attitude, hard work, pride, and team spirit.

    I firmly believe it is the latter. If we were just getting lucky against second rate competition, how come the numbers are just so phenominal. I mean why didn’t VT rack up similar stats against their FCS competition, or Miami, or any one else? It’s because we have something special going on here. Even our second and third string players are performing exceptionally well IMHO. I’ll be there cheering the white and gold.

    GT Nuke


    PS Any thoughts on the continuing saga of conference expansion?

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi Gt Nuke,

      Although the competition has not been the best, you are 100% correct in your analysis in that we have been dominating these teams as we should.  The Tar Heels are going to be a challenge on Saturday, but with the way we are playing this season as a TEAM, I like our chances in this one.  For the first time in the CPJ era we have been able to actually play our second team folks extensively and get them valuable playing time. 

      In fact, I believe that second team QB Synjyn Days is actually our leading rusher and he has not played the equivalent of a full game.  That says alot about the overall attitude of this team this year.  On defense we are playing well and really smacking opponents for the first time in a very long time.  Can’t wait for Saturday and the ACC Coastal Division opener against North Carolina.  Looking for the defense to get some more stops and hopefully another 7 punts in this one too!

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi again Gt Nuke,

      As far as the ACC expansion, I think the addition of Syracuse and Pitt is outstanding.  If they consider adding any other teams, given the now certain death of the Big East I would reach out to TCU and UCONN if they want to go to 16 teams and extend them invitations to join..

  • Anonymous

    there are a few things not accurate in this report. Ryan Houston did not play last year. I believe GT’s first TD last year in CH was a pass. Also, I wouldn’t call Bernard a “scat” back. He runs it outside, and inside. He doesn’t shy away from hits, and can pick up blocking schemes well.

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi UNC 1998 and welcome to isportsweb,

      You are correct in pointing out that Ryan Houston did not play last year actually it was Mr. Droughns who went over 100 yards for your Tar Heels and played quite well.  Hard to keep track of who played and when based on the large group of players who were suspended for varying games last year for North Carolina.  My bad.

      Orwin Smith did score the Yellow Jackets first TD of the game on a 73 yard run, not 80 yards.  However, it was an 80 yard drive in 3 plays with Mr. Smith going the last 73 around right end for the TD on an option play, not a pass.  As far as Gio not being a scat back, in contrast to the 245 Lbs. Mr. Houston he falls into that category based on the weight difference and his wiggle on the field.  He runs much better in space than between the tackles.

    • Michaelgoldfeder

      Hi again UNC 1998,

      I forgot to mention that we currently do not have anyone covering the Tar Heels on isportsweb, so the position is wide open should you want to come on board and write about your Tar Heels this season and next.  Just contact either Rob or Joe White on this site.  Look forward to having you joining up and covering your Tar Heels this season and next year.