Following last weekend’s narrow loss to the Clemson Tigers, North Carolina seemed positioned to come to Atlanta and mow down any team who came in between them and a victory. However, although the Jackets have not exactly had a promising start to their season, Tech appeared to hold off the North Carolina Tarheels for at least the first quarter before falling behind as the game continued. Between the injuries of key players and near constant swapping out of quarterbacks, the Jackets struggled to keep up and lost 38-22.
After the first quarter finished with an uneventful three points by the Heels and zero from the Jackets, the second quarter saw a bit more action in the way of scoring. Quite a few passes throughout the first half of the game were deemed incomplete as both teams struggled to get their offensive players up and running, yet North Carolina was able to get their feet underneath them and put up 14 more points in the second quarter. The Jackets finally got their first points up on the board at the midpoint of the third quarter, placing the score at 17-7, Carolina. The final quarter saw a continuation of Carolina’s dominance, while the Jackets tried their best to hold on to the momentum which they had built during the second half. Quarterback James Graham acknowledged that the team “picked up the tempo a little bit” after halftime, as did Collins by saying that the team “did a good job of getting the rhythm and getting moving”, but it was too little too late.
Redshirt sophomore Jordan Mason continued his streak of high performance, leading the team in rushing yards by an astonishing amount. If Collins could hone another player’s skills to come anywhere close to Mason’s, the team could have quite the tag team when producing rushing yardage, yet that may not be where Collins plans to place his focus in years to come. Along with Mason, players such as redshirt sophomore Adonicas Sanders and sophomore Malachi Carter had memorable plays at the wide receiver position. Carter noted that the team felt more comfortable after picking up the pace, playing at a quick tempo similar to the tempo at which they practice.
Both teams had their fair shares of notable plays, but a quick glance at the total yards put up by each team shows the vast difference in offensive prowess. Furthermore, the passing yards recorded by the Heels was over double that of the Jackets at 376 yards to the Jackets’ 171 yards, while the rushing yards were nearly the same. Yet, it was not that the Jackets had a poor rate of completion, but that they failed to pass at the same frequency as the Heels. Clearly, Tech is still stuck in the rut of a triple-option team that former head coach Paul Johnson created.
In his press conference following the game, Collins spoke on the fact that “executing the third down was getting to [the team]”. While the Jackets were able to carry out first and second downs on a regular basis, that last stretch was where they often fell short. However, each week the team makes visible improvements, so the Jackets could still have the potential to win a few games before the season is out.