Tech defeated North Carolina in a closely-contested game on Saturday to win their fourth straight game and the first conference game of the season. The Jackets scored the final touchdown of the game with 5:20 remaining on the clock to win 35-28.
The Tech defense had a productive day on the field. The Jackets accumulated six sacks of UNC quarterback Bryn Renner during the game. Sophomore linebacker Jeremiah Attaochu, who was named the FWAA/Bronko Nagurski National Defensive Player of the Week, led the Jackets with nine tackles, five of which were unassisted.
On the offensive side, Tech racked up 272 total yards in the first half compared to just 93 for UNC, but the Tar Heels managed to complete a series of long drives to close the gap in the second half. In the end, the Jackets finished with 496 yards (184 of which came via the passing game) compared to UNC’s 332.
Tech’s ability to limit the number of turnovers this game was better than previous games. Redshirt junior quarterback Tevin Washington threw his first interception of the season and the Jackets fumbled only once, but were unable to recover the ball. By comparison, UNC’s Renner threw two interceptions.
The Jackets won the toss but elected to defer. UNC chose to receive. The Tech defense was unable to stop a series of rushes by UNC running back Giovanni Bernard and UNC scored on its first drive of the game. This marked the first time this season that the Jackets have trailed.
Tech responded on the next drive, with Washington completing a 21-yard pass to junior A-back Orwin Smith. The Jackets ultimately stalled, but sophomore kicker Justin Moore completed a 40-yard field goal attempt to put the Jackets on the board 7-3.
The Jackets’ defense forced a punt after Attaochu sacked Renner for a loss of 11 yards. Tech was able to make a number of big plays on the next drive, including a 36-yard rush by Smith to bring the ball into UNC territory. On a third-and-five from the UNC 33-yard line, Hill caught a high pass from Washington with a leaping one-handed play and landed in bounds, giving Tech a first down.
Tech was unable to capitalize on Hill’s play, however, and failed to gain another first down. Moore lined up for a field goal try but missed a 38-yard attempt.
The Tar Heels failed to make significant progress on their next drive, going three-and-out. UNC attempted to punt, but freshman receiver Darren Waller blocked the punt and freshman defensive back Corey Dennis returned the ball to the UNC 22-yard line.
Tech moved into the red zone but was unable to reach the end zone. Washington fumbled the ball on first-and-goal with nine yards to go, and UNC recovered.
The Jackets got the ball back after another three-and-out, and Washington completed a pass to Hill for a 59-yard touchdown on the first play of the drive. The score gave Tech its first lead of the day, a 10-7 advantage with 7:57 remaining in the second quarter.
The Tech defense continued to shut down the Tar Heels’ offense for the remainder of the half. Attaochu sacked Renner for seven yards on the next UNC drive to force a punt. Washington threw his first interception of the season on the first play of the ensuing drive, but on UNC’s second play that followed, Attaochu tipped a pass into the hands of sophomore safety Isaiah Johnson and Tech got the ball back.
Tech scored on that drive, going 79 yards on 12 plays to increase the lead over UNC to 17-7, a score that held until halftime.
The Jackets opened the second half with a 10-play, 62-yard drive that ended with Moore connecting on a 36-yard field goal. UNC responded with a short drive of five passing plays for 74 yards, scoring a touchdown in just 2:10.
Washington followed up by leading Tech on a 13-play drive for a touchdown, and the Jackets completed the two-point conversion to bring the score to 28-14 with 1:26 remaining in the third quarter.
UNC struck back quickly, going 64 yards on five plays and reaching the end zone on a 20-yard touchdown pass on the first play of the fourth quarter. The score cut Tech’s lead to 28-21 with 14:53 left in the game.
Although an unfavorable bounce on a Tech punt gave the Tar Heels great field position on their next drive, UNC failed to capitalize. Tech junior cornerback Rod Sweeting made a leaping interception on Renner’s first pass.
After Tech failed to score on its next drive, UNC drove 80 yards to tie the game, with Bernard rushing 55 yards on the final play for a touchdown.
Tech responded by breaking the tie and scoring the final touchdown of the game. Redshirt senior A-back Roddy Jones had the longest play of the drive, a 48-yard rush that brought the ball to the nine yard line.
With just over five minutes remaining in the game, the Tech defense shut down the UNC offense to prevent either of their last drives from scoring. The Jackets ended the game with a sack on Renner, running out the clock and setting the final score at 35-28.