On Saturday Sept. 18, the Tech football team traveled to North Carolina to take on the Tar Heels in each team’s first ACC conference game of the season.
After trading scores for most of the game, Tech pulled away at the end and defeated UNC, 30-24.
UNC got the ball to start the game and proceeded to go on a long 15-play drive. A combination of short passes from quarterback T.J. Yates and four straight runs by running back Shaun Draughn to end the drive set up a Tar Heels field goal, putting the score in UNC’s favor, 3-0.
Tech answered the score in its next drive when after two short runs, sophomore A-back Orwin Smith (who made his first career start for the Jackets) took a pitch and raced 73 yards down the sideline for a touchdown.
“That play was an old-fashioned play. It was one of our basic plays. Everyone [blocked] the right person, and it was a touchdown,” Smith said.
On UNC’s next drive, Yates found a wide-open receiver on a second-and-seven play and delivered it to him for a 52-yard touchdown.
Down by three points, Tech took over the ball for its second possession and used two runs totaling 33 yards from junior A-back Embry Peeples to give the team great field possession.
Senior quarterback Joshua Nesbitt passed the ball on the team’s next play, and he found redshirt junior A-back Roddy Jones open in the end zone for a 26-yard touchdown. Nesbitt ended the day with three completed passes in four attempts.
“[Nesbitt] was efficient. We probably could have thrown the ball a little more, but the way the game was going, you didn’t want to take a chance,” said Head Coach Paul Johnson.
In the second quarter, UNC went on a 13-play drive that ended with a Yates sneak for a touchdown.
With more than ten minutes remaining in the half, Tech took over the ball on its own eight yard-line. Twenty plays and 10 minutes and 42 seconds later, the Jackets ran out of time, and were forced to kick a field goal, ending the half with the game tied at 17.
Nesbitt fumbled the ball to open the second half, and UNC recovered at Tech’s 47-yard line. Three runs by UNC’s Johnny White later, the Heels took the lead at 24-17. White finished the game with 113 yards.
After the teams traded punts, Tech had a chance to tie the game when it started its next drive at its own 47-yard line. However, another turnover, this one on downs, gave the ball back to UNC.
After not having committed a penalty or a turnover all game, UNC’s first play on their next drive was a fumbled hand off, and Tech recovered the fumble.
The Jackets would make the most out of this opportunity and rushing Nesbitt four out of the next five plays, they found the end zone tying the game. Nesbitt finished the game with 104 yards rushing.
“The first half looked like nobody was going to stop anybody, and then in the second half the dreaded turnovers kind of reared their head, and we were fortunate we got some points off of them,” Johnson said.
UNC committed it first penalty of the game on the first play of its next possession giving them a first-and-long. UNC went three plays and out on its next possession, and Tech took over on its own 27-yard line to begin the fourth quarter.
A combination of rushes from senior B-back Anthony Allen and Nesbitt set up senior kicker Scott Blair for a 46-yard field goal attempt. Blair made the kick and gave the Jackets a three-point lead.
After another lost fumble by UNC, Tech primarily used Allen, who finished the game with 115 yards, to march down the field and eat away at the clock.
Facing a fourth-and-one at UNC’s 18 yard-line, Johnson decided to try and get the Tar Heel defenders to jump offside.
Instead, Tech jumped early, making it a fourth-and-six situation. Johnson decided to send Blair out to attempt another field goal, and Blair made the kick, putting the Jackets up six with only six minutes left in the game.
UNC took over the ball on its next drive with the intentions of making the next drive the game’s last. After a first down, three straight passes by Yates put the Tar Heels in a fourth-and-two situation.
Yates found a receiver on the next play for two yards, keeping the game alive.
A pass interference penalty on Tech and a few short runs by the Heels gave UNC another fourth down. This time, UNC had to get 10 yards, and even though Yates completed the throw, UNC came up four yards short.
Tech took over the ball and after a few runs from Nesbitt, the game was over.
Tech’s next game is against another ACC foe, the N.C. Wolfpack on Sept. 25. Tech won the last meeting against the Wolfpack back in 2006, the year Tech went to their first ever ACC Championship game.