ATLANTA — The surprise, shock and disbelief seemed so painful nine days ago, as if the team took an over-the-top haymaker flush to its collective face.
But the crimson and blue boxing glove that blind-sided Georgia Tech may very well have been the Yellow Jackets’ ticket to a successful 2010 campaign.
Or so they hope.
“Getting kicked in the teeth by Kansas, it helped us,” A-back Roddy Jones said Saturday afternoon in Chapel Hill, N.C.
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The junior was entitled to feeling that way after he and his teammates responded to a defeat at the hands of Kansas with a much-needed 30-24 road win over North Carolina in their ACC opener. While the win was the result of several key defensive stops, a pair of long catches by Jones and an offensive explosion unlike any other during the season, it was rooted in something deeper, Jones said.
“We kind of changed our mind-set,” Jones said. “Guys had kind of taken a step back mentally.”
When the Yellow Jackets walked away from the Kansas loss and reassessed the situation, they hated what they saw. B-back Anthony Allen was disheartened by the effort, drive and lack of attention to detail that defined their previous game.
For that reason, Allen said, Georgia Tech had to come out differently against North Carolina in order to right its ship.
It had to play a brand of football the players had become accustomed to experiencing the past three seasons.
“This game, we went from whistle to whistle, from first quarter to fourth quarter,” he said, moments after his 115-yard performance helped fuel the win.
Although head coach Paul Johnson admitted Sunday night that there were still problems in the Yellow Jackets’ less-than-pretty win Saturday, he witnessed the kind of general focus and effort that he felt had come to define his program.
“It’s encouraging that we played like Georgia Tech,” Johnson said. “We fought, we scraped, we punched. We did whatever we needed to do to win.”
Jones shared similar sentiments. Where Kansas may have out-pushed and out-hustled the Yellow Jackets the previous week, they were intent on doing the same thing to the Tar Heels this past week.
“Georgia Tech football is hitting people in the mouth. Running the football, long drives, getting stops when you need them,” Jones said.
On a fourth-and-10 with less than 1:30 remaining in the game, the Yellow Jackets’ defense responded with a key stop by collapsing on Tar Heels running back Johnny White, who received a short pass and was looking to break a first-down.
Hit immediately by senior Brad Jefferson, White fell 4 yards short of the first-down, helping to cap Georgia Tech’s narrow Week 3 win.