With shootout win, Jackets in Coastal hunt
NOV 10, 2012 4:52p ET
Welcome to the fray, Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets have four losses in which they have allowed 41 or more points, including at home to Middle Tennessee State (49-28) and BYU (41-17). They entered Saturday's affair with North Carolina having dropped four of their last six contests, and they lost their starting quarterback early in the game.
Yet, with Saturday's historic 68-50 victory among the pines at Kenan Memorial Stadium, the Yellow Jackets, whose defensive coordinator was fired a few weeks ago, can reach the ACC Championship Game with a win at home over Duke next weekend and a Miami loss at the Blue Devils two days after Thanksgiving.
Of course, a win by Tech (5-5, 4-3 ACC) next week will seal the deal if Miami opts out of a postseason bowl in an attempt to lessen the sanctions the NCAA will levy once it completes its investigation of the program. Think what you want of the ACC, the Coastal in particular, but at least it's unpredictable. And in some respects, that can be exciting.
For Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, excitement is when his team wins, regardless of the score.
"It's like I said after the game, 68 is more than 50," Johnson said. "Sometimes you win like that, sometimes you win 6-3. I thought they did enough in the second half to enable us to win. They kept playing, and that's what you've got to do."
And for Saturday's contest, it was thrilling to a degree. Watching two teams run up and down the field scoring at will doesn't always seem much like real football. And it didn't in this game until the squads closed in on notable milestones. Before the third quarter even ended, the Jackets and Heels had tied the all-time mark for points in a game involving two ACC teams, as Tech led 58-43 after UNC's Quinshad Davis caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Bryn Renner.
Two fourth-quarter touchdowns and a field goal gave us the final score and the record-setting afternoon for combined points. Among the wacky, the following is notable:
- North Carolina had scoring drives of 93 and 94 yards.
- The teams combined for 497 kickoff return yards.
- Georgia Tech scored 30 points in the third quarter, which included a kickoff return for a score.
- UNC converted its fourth two-point conversion in its last three games.
- North Carolina's 50 points is the most it's ever scored in a loss. The previous high was 47 in a two-point loss to Syracuse.
- Tech scored at least 10 points in every quarter.
- 11 different players scored touchdowns.
The figures for Georgia Tech are also odd, yet still impressive. Backup quarterback Vad Lee, who grew up about 10 miles away in Durham, N.C., ran for 112 yards and two touchdowns, passed for 169 and a score, and directed an offense that punted just twice.
The Yellow Jackets finished with 208 receiving yards on only seven completed pass attempts and allowed the most points in a victory.
"You don't want to give up seven completions for 208 yards, I know that, against a team that traditionally has trouble throwing the football," UNC coach Larry Fedora said.
There were many turning points on the afternoon for the Jackets, who trailed 36-34 three plays into the second half. Tech forced a fumble in the red zone by Tar Heels quarterback Bryn Renner early in the second quarter, and 81 yards and 10 plays later took a 21-14 lead.
Senior defensive end Izaan Cross intercepted Renner's pass early in the third quarter, setting up a Tech field goal for a 44-36 Jackets lead. And on UNC's next possession, Tech snuffed out a surprising fake punt by the Heels at their own 25-yard-line and scored on the next play, as junior A-back Robert Goodhigh raced 27 yards into the end zone to give Tech a 51-36 advantage with 6:19 left in the third quarter.
The 17-point difference in those plays shaped how Carolina played down the stretch and nudged the Jackets back into relevance, at least in the ACC.
"I don't know about any one play that sticks out," Johnson said. "I think anytime we got a stop it was big, I know that."
It was, and so was the win. And the streak of either Virginia Tech or the Yellow Jackets representing the Coastal in the title game remains possibly intact.
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