It wasn't easy but Georgia Tech went on the road and defeated a resilient North Carolina squad on Saturday. Butch Davis and the Tar Heels were seeking revenge for last year's 24-7 loss in Atlanta.
Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt was 3 of 4 for 76 yards and a touchdown pass along with 104 yards on the ground and a score. Anthony Allen had 115 yards on the ground as well.
The Georgia Tech run game amassed 372 yard rushing and the offense had 448 yard total. The defense allowed 352 yards of total offense but was able to create turnovers and force a few punts in the second half. Senior quarterback TJ Yates was 18 of 24 for 209 yards and a touchdown pass. The Tar Heel run game also had a big game.
With NC State visiting Bobby Dodd stadium this week, a victory in the conference opener was crucial. And after watching Russell Wilson and NC State so far this season, beating the Wolfpack at home will be no easy feat.
Here are a few observations from Georgia Tech's 30-24 victory over North Carolina.
I said last week that in order for this offense to be successful that Anthony Allen needed to carry the ball close to 20 times. He had 20 carries on Saturday and ran for 115 yards and the Yellow Jackets had their best offensive day so far in this early season.
Georgia Tech was getting big yards on the pitch early in the game, including Orwin Smith's 73 yard touchdown run on the first drive of the game. That opened up the middle for Allen.
The senior B-back wore down the Tar Heel defense as they sold out to stop the pitch and Nesbitt on quarterback keepers.
Allen averaged 5.8 yards per carry and played like the guy everyone thought they would see this season. He hits the hole hard and will rarely lose yardage. Expect games like this from Allen the rest of the season.
Obviously, the defense is not anywhere close to where it needs to be but it improved late on Saturday. After White scored a touchdown to make it 24-17 in favor of the Tar Heels early in the third quarter, Carolina did not score again.
Other than the touchdown pass in the first quarter by Yates, the Georgia Tech defense was able to limit the big plays in the passing game.
Senior running back Johnny White had a huge game for North Carolina, rushing for a career high 113 yards. The Georgia Tech defense really had no answer for White and the Tar Heel running game.
Joshua Nesbitt ran Paul Johnson's spread option offense to near perfection on Saturday. The senior spread the ball around to different guys in the running and passing game. Other than a couple of bad pitches, the offense was hitting on all cylinders.
Nesbitt was efficient enough with his arm (3 for 4) and went over the 100 yard mark on the ground again. Orwin Smith took advantage of his only carry of the game, taking it 73 yards to the house. Roddy Jones contributed in the passing game, catching a touchdown pass from Nesbitt in the first quarter.
Downfield blocking by has been poor to say the least in the early goings of the season. But on Saturday, it was the key to several big plays by the Georgia Tech offense. The A-backs and wide receivers were committed to blocking on Saturday and it showed with the Yellow Jacket's 372 yards on the ground.
The key play for the Georgia Tech offense came late in the third quarter, as the Yellow Jackets were down 24-17.
On 3rd and 11 and an obvious passing down, Nesbitt evaded pressure and found Roddy Jones for a 41 yard reception all the way to the North Carolina 5 yard line. Nesbitt eventually scored to tie the game.
With the way things were going at that point, the Yellow Jackets couldn't afford to give the ball back to the North Carolina defense. This play gave this team the momentum needed to take control of the game. The defense stepped up their play and offense was able to close it out with two drives that resulted in field goals.
There are a couple of plays that could be considered key plays for the defense, including the fumble by Pianalto. But one play changed the entire game.
After Nesbitt was stopped on fourth down on the North Carolina 45, TJ Yates and the Tar Heel offense had good field position and an opportunity to run away with the game.
On the first play of the drive, Yates ran into his fullback and fumbled the ball. Senior linebacker Brad Jefferson was there to pounce on it. It was a play that gave Georgia Tech new life.
Nesbitt led the offense down the field and tied the game up after the fumble. After the touchdown, the defense played with a lot of energy and was able to force the Tar Heels into a 3 and out and then the offense took the lead for good.
While Georgia Tech played well on offense and the defense stepped up late in the game, the Yellow Jackets victory had a little luck involved as well.
The fact that North Carolina stopped giving the ball to Johnny White was just absurd. The Yellow Jacket defense could not bring him down as the senior had a huge day. Georgia Tech is very lucky that the Tar Heels went away from giving the ball to White.
TJ Yates fumble after Nesbitt was stopped on fourth down was unforced and just bad luck for UNC. Yates ran into his fullback and coughed the ball up. Thanks TJ.
Although the victory over the Tar Heels and starting 1-0 in the ACC feels good, there are still a lot of things that need to be cleaned up before Georgia Tech becomes a title contender.
The run defense is still atrocious and has allowed the third straight 100 yard rusher to start the season. Although Johnny White looked very good on Saturday, he is still ultimately the third string running back for the Tar Heels. It's not like Georgia Tech has had to tackle Mark Ingram. The run defense must improve or there will be no division title this year.
The costly penalties must be avoided. Most notably, Phil Smith committed a false start penalty on fourth and 1 that forced Georgia Tech offense off the field and Scott Blair on the field. If Nesbitt sneaks for a yard on fourth down, the Yellow Jackets win easily. Instead, Blair's field goal made it 30-24 and gave the ball back to North Carolina with a chance to win. Fortunately, the defense was able to stop North Carolina.