The North Carolina football team stepped onto the field at Kenan Stadium Saturday afternoon with an extra week of practice under its belt.
But that didn’t matter.
All that two weeks of preparation brought the Tar Heels was a 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech spurred on by an exceptionally dismal performance by UNC’s defense.
The 108 points scored in the game was the most combined points scored in ACC history. Georgia Tech’s 68 points and UNC’s 50 points were also the most scored by either team in series history.
“Practices were good,” coach Larry Fedora said. “If I saw that coming, I probably wouldn’t have shown up today … We had really good practices. We had a lot of energy at practice. I had no idea.”
Though UNC led at the break, it had already given up 28 points and 287 yards of total offense.
Scoring 27 seconds before halftime, it seemed possible that UNC would be able to build on momentum and break away from the Yellow Jackets in the second half. But Georgia Tech’s Jamal Golden didn’t let that happen.
The punt returner fielded Casey Barth’s kickoff at the goal line and ran it down the entire length of the field for a 100 yd kickoff return. Golden’s score marked the beginning of what would the highest number of points allowed by UNC in the third quarter this season.
The Yellow Jackets put 30 points on the board in the third quarter. Prior to that, UNC only allowed 23 points to be scored in the third quarter all season.
“We just fell apart,” Fedora said. “We basically gave them the game and then had a chance to get back into the game down a score and we just couldn’t get it going.”
While Georgia Tech’s offense rushed for 380 yards, it was the passing game that doomed the Tar Heels.
Durham native and quarterback Vad Lee threw for 169 yards while only completing six of ten attempts. Those passes included a 63-yard completion to Darren Waller in the second quarter that eventually set up a Georgia Tech touchdown.
“They’re known as a running team, but when they’re running, running, running, they’re going to give a couple play-action passes,” cornerback Tim Scott said. “When they did do it, we were unprepared for it and it really hurt us.”
North Carolina’s defense wasn’t alone in giving up big plays. The offense also struggled at times. Bryn Renner through two costly interceptions. Only one led a Georgia Tech touchdown, but the other resulted in a field goal.
North Carolina’s 50 points marks the most scored by UNC in a loss.
Though many negative records were set against the Yellow Jackets, there were a few bright spots.
Giovani Bernard rushed 16 times for 78 yards to push him over the 1,000-yard mark. With 1,008 yards, Bernard becomes the first player since Natrone Means in 1991 and 1992 to have consecutive 1,000-yard seasons.
Eric Ebron also surpassed the single-season record for receptions by a tight end with 37 while freshman wide receiver Quinshad Davis had his first 100-yd game.
“It feels good to get it out of the way,” Davis said, “but it came in a loss, so that kind of takes the feeling back a little bit.”
The Tar Heels had two weeks to prepare for the Yellow Jackets and their notoriously confusing triple-option offense. But in the end, the Tar Heels lacked the discipline necessary to control and defeat Georgia Tech.
“This game was going to tell how disciplined we were and everybody didn’t do the right job,” senior linebacker Kevin Reddick said. “Guys had their eyes in the wrong place. They just out-executed us and the better team won.”
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