Tech suffered its third loss of the season and in ACC play to UNC last weekend in Chapel Hill. After the 28-7 loss to the Tar Heels, Tech (7-3, 4-3 in the ACC) fell to No. 4 in the Coastal Division, while UNC (7-2, 3-2 in the ACC) rose to a tie for the No. 1 spot along with Miami and Virginia Tech.
During the first half Tech was able to move to the ball down the field, but failed to put points on the board. The Jackets had four drives in the first half that penetrated into UNC territory, three of which were nine plays or greater. The results were two turnovers on downs and two missed field goals. While the Heels only had two drives on the Jackets side of the field, they were still able to come away with a touchdown.
“We had the ball on the perimeter a bunch of times with two-on-two out there and then the ball carrier. And they took advantage of some short fields…. You know honestly we moved the ball; we just couldn’t get any points. I looked and in the first half we had double the first downs, we had almost double time possession. We couldn’t get any points,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
Tech dominated the stat sheet throughout the entire game. The Jackets out gained the Tar Heels 423 yards to 314. North Carolina was four- for-14 on third down conversions while Tech was six-for-14. Tech won the time of possession battle, 31:50 to 28:10. However, UNC was two-for-four on fourth down with no turnovers, while the Jackets were zero-for-two on fourth with three turnovers. Field position also played a role in the match. North Carolina started nine drives on their 30-yard line or further.
UNC took the opening drive of the game 67 yards on nine plays and took a 7-0 lead. On their second drive, the Jackets gambled on fourth down with three yards to go on the UNC 46-yard line. Sophomore B-back Jonathan Dwyer was stopped at the line of scrimmage on the play.
On UNC’s next possession, the Tar Heels faced a similar situation on fourth and four from the Tech 33. Like Tech they went for the first down, and North Carolina’s QB Cameron Sexton was sacked for a seven-yard loss. On the ensuing drive the Jackets faced fourth and one from at the UNC 38. Dwyer was stopped again at the line of scrimmage forcing the second turnover on downs.
UNC’s offense would be held in check for the remainder of the first half. Tech’s defense led by senior defensive linemen Vance Walker and Michael Johnson asserted themselves against North Carolina’s offensive line. The Tar Heels were held to 27 yards of total offense for the rest of the half.
Tech’s offense, on the other hand, started to sustain drives deep into UNC territory. The first drive went 13 plays for 67 yards, all the way to the UNC 23-yard line where sophomore place kicker Scott Blair missed a 40-yard field goal. On the second drive, the Jackets offense stalled at the UNC 30. A false start penalty pushed the Jackets to the UNC 35 where Blair pushed a 52-yard field goal wide right.
The game went back and forth in the second half until redshirt freshman A-back/returner Roddy Jones fumbled the punt that led to a UNC possession on the Tech 30 yard line. The Heels would score on the drive.
The Jackets next possession lasted two plays as freshman backup quarterback Jaybo Shaw would be sacked on the first play and fumble on the second play. Carolina scored again.
Two drives later, with sophomore quarterback Josh Nesbitt back in the game, Dwyer would run up the middle untouched 85 yards for the end zone to avoid the shutout. The touchdown was the longest ever play allowed by North Carolina.
The Heels would score on a pass play to receiver Hakeen Nicks to cap the scoring at 28-7.
The Jackets have not lost two games in a row this season and look to avoid a losing streak Thursday against Miami at home at Bobby Dodd Stadium.