This opening ACC Coastal Division game against North Carolina at BDS was going to determine for the first time how this Yellow Jacket team was going to respond facing highly recruited athletes on both sides of the football, especially in the trenches. The triple option was working once again and the few times that it did bog down was due to Georgia Tech turning the ball over on an unforced fumble at the ten yard line, and Tevin Washington’s first interception of the season, it was pretty efficient. Other than those two turnovers, the offense was moving the ball well against the stout defensive front line of the Tar Heels.
Credit the guys up front, also known as the “Goon Squad” for going toe to toe all day with some future NFL defensive linemen and coming out the victors as they rushed for 300+ on the ground and nearly 500 yards in total offense for the game while also providing outstanding pass protection for Tevin Washington who was given plenty of time to find his receivers going 10 for 14 without getting sacked. In addition, the blocking by WR’s Stephen Hill and Tyler Melton was outstanding once again in this game. On the two yard Roddy Jones touchdown just before the half, Tyler Melton lined up as the smallest TE in the NCAA and blocked two Tar Heels on the play helping Roddy get into the end zone. He only caught two passes all afternoon, but that type of team contribution by blocking on the perimeter shows up in the film room on Monday if not the final box score.
After the Tar Heels took the opening kickoff and went 67 yards for a touchdown, Al Groh held them to 22 yards the rest of the first half. The defense played very well for the day getting two interceptions and more importantly, seven sacks against a Tar Heel NFL sized offensive line that must be the biggest in the entire NCAA. Their smallest lineman went about 315 Lbs. going all the way up to 340+. The entire Yellow Jacket defensive front 7 did more than just hold their own all day they made big plays when the team needed them the most.
The defense played with great effort the entire afternoon and but for a couple of missed tackles on the 55 yard TD run by Giovani Bernard in the 4th quarter, the Tar Heels gained a total of 128 yards for the entire game. Considering the tremendous size advantage North Carolina had up front in this contest, that number is very impressive. NT Logan Walls was standing his ground all day in the middle of the line enabling our linebackers to aggressively pursue to the football unblocked all afternoon. Outside linebacker Jeremiah Attaouch had nine tackles and three QB sacks while he was beating a couple of 6′ 7″ 325+ Lbs. offensive tackles in the process. That is how this 3/4 defense works best when the down 3 linemen are keeping the offensive linemen tied up on the line of scrimmage and allowing our linebackers to make plays from all over the field in the backfield.
With all of the outstanding personnel that North Carolina has on their team, you just knew at some point they were going to make this a game. Which they did eventually tying up the contest at 28 with about seven minutes left in the 4th quarter. This is where the Yellow Jackets showed what they are made of this season as they didn’t panic and proceeded to execute a four play 61 yard drive for a touchdown that only took a little over two minutes. The big play of the drive was Roddy Jones on a toss sweep around the left side for a 48 yard gain down to the Tar Heel 9 yard line. Tevin Washington took it in for a touchdown a few plays later untouched on a midline option in the A gap and a 35 to 28 lead with about 5 minutes remaining in the game.
Now it was time for the defense to step up and stop North Carolina to seal the victory. In the past few seasons these types of situations evolved into a game of whoever has the ball last will win as the Yellow Jackets were unable to get a stop when needed and always depended on the offense to come through with the final score. This was a statement stand for the Georgia Tech 3/4 defense and Al Groh to get it done against a good offense in crunch time and seal the victory against the Tar Heels. After giving up a first down the defense came through with back to back quarterback sacks and forced a punt with about three minutes left in the game.
The Georgia Tech offense got a first down, but the Tar Heels had most of their time outs on the board and were able to hold the Yellow Jackets and got the ball back after a punt on their 16 yard line with about 1:32 remaining on the clock. Now in the past that would have been a game probably headed to OT, so now the defense was asked to once again step up and stop the Tar Heels one more time for the win. After a QB sack on second down the Tar Heels completed a 24 yard pass and had a first down on their 41 yard line.
After a completed pass for 8 yards, another QB sack this time by Jeremiah Attaochu (3rd for the day) left the Tar Heels with one more play as the clock ran down to nine seconds left in the game. North Carolina was called for an illegal shift due in large part to the tremendous NOISE that was being generated by the loyal fans at BDS, and with the new NCAA runoff rule in effect this season, the Yellow Jackets opted for the ten seconds to be run off the clock and that ended the game with a hard fought 35 to 28 ACC opening game win for the Yellow Jackets.
This was the first time in recent memory that the offense had to trust the defense to protect a lead not only once, but twice inside of five minutes left in the game and the 3/4 defense came through both times with QB sacks to help seal this win for the TEAM! The special teams came out huge in the first half with true freshman WR Darren Waller partially blocking a punt and a heads up play by another true freshman safety/WR Corey Dennis picking up the ball after a bounce and ran it forward another 7 yards.
The play of Stephen Hill catching 6 passes for 151 yards with an incredible 1 handed leaping grab near the sideline to keep a drive going was another impressive performance this early in the season. What he has really been doing well along with Tyler Melton on the edge this season is getting after defensive backs with tremendous blocking. So nothing more needs to be said about a single play given his outstanding effort in this game and this season as he is really coming into his own as a standout player.
Time to get ready for the first ACC road game against the North Carolina State Wolfpack after playing last Thursday at Cincinnati now has extra time to prepare for Georgia Tech. As Paul Johnson likes to say; “you need to win this game to make the next one a big game.” So far so good, but it does look like this Georgia Tech squad is starting to trust each other by getting it done on both sides of the ball in crunch time, and that’s the first step in becoming a TEAM! Go Jackets!