Georgia Tech 28, North Carolina 20: Jackets rally for victory

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerSeptember 21, 2013 

ATLANTA -- On an rainy afternoon that was better suited for an all-day ticket of sofa-sitting and movie watching, Georgia Tech proved that old and traditional can still be more interesting and more successful than new and shiny.

With rain falling all day at Bobby Dodd Stadium, starting with a drizzle and reaching a crescendo in the second half, the Yellow Jackets did what they did best.

They ran the ball. They kept the ball. They ate clock, mouthfuls and mouthfuls of clock.

And despite spotting North Carolina a 13-point advantage, the Yellow Jackets proved again that an afternoon of dives and pitches can sometimes trump a flavor-of-the-day offense.

And when the mud was wiped off the scoreboard, it showed Georgia Tech to be a 28-20 victor.

The win was typical of the sort that coach Paul Johnson has built his career on at Georgia Tech. The Yellow Jackets had the ball for 40 minutes and 38 seconds.

They ran 83 plays, 71 of them rushing attempts, and pounded the Tar Heels for 28 first downs.

"We were poor on our side, too many three-and-outs," North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said.

"They did a nice job moving the chains on their side. When you get them in a situation like that, that's what they're the best at, getting 3-4 yards and moving the chains."

Tech played from behind for better than two quarters. But when the Jackets took the lead 21-20 on a 1-yard run by Lee midway in the third period, North Carolina was on its way to being scattered, smothered and covered.

"Once we got the lead we found a renewed energy and we played a lot better defensively and offensively for that matter," Johnson said.

Minutes before, it appeared North Carolina had found the golden ticket to finally beating Georgia Tech, which has won five straight in the series.

Quarterback Bryn Renner dodged a blitzer and hit Ryan Switzer in stride for what appeared to be an 87-yard touchdown.

But Renner had been given time to throw by Jon Heck's holding of Tech Jeremiah Attaochu, an infraction that drew a flag that negated the score.

Two plays later Attaochu got his sack, forcing the Heels to punt from their own end zone about the time the rain became its heaviest and the clouds became their darkest.

The gloom was there on behalf of North Carolina. Once Tech got the ball back, it needed nine plays to cover the 53 yards and take the lead on Lee's third rushing touchdown of the year.

The Tech defense stopped North Carolina on the next possession, a key play was the hit applied by Domonique Noble to break up a pass to tight end Eric Ebron.

The offense took advantage with an 11-play drive capped on a 6-yard touchdown run by David Sims that gave Tech a 28-20 lead.

North Carolina appeared to be driving for the tying score, but Louis Young interrupted the momentum by intercepting a pass after it was tipped by Jemea Thomas.

North Carolina had no luck on its next possession, punting the ball to Tech with 6:27 left.

The Tar Heels never got the ball out. Georgia Tech ran 13 plays and ran out the clock, the big play a 10-yard run by Lee on third down and moved the chains and signaled the end for UNC.

"We've been pretty good at running the clock out," Johnson said.

And while the offense gets major credit for controlling the temp and preventing North Carolina from establishing a rhythm, the Tech defense showed great improvement in the second half.

After allowing the Tar Heels to score on three of their first four possessions, the Yellow Jackets did not permit a point in the second half.

Renner, who threw for 178 yards and two touchdowns in the first half, finished with 218.

"We did a better job keeping them off the board," Johnson said.

"And they worked in tandem, as the offense did a nice job of holding on to the ball. As for Renner, the defensive staff made some good adjustments at halftime and in the second half.

"I also thought Jeremiah turned it up a notch. He was really applying some pressure off the edge and got a couple holding calls."

A-back Robert Godhigh rushed for 100 yards, including a 48-yarder, and B-back Sims rushed for 99 yards and two touchdowns.

"We just got in our groove," Sims said. "Coach started calling some plays to get us going on the inside, and we took advantage of it."

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