Flats Lines: Reviewing Georgia Tech’s loss to UNC

 Ben McKeown AP Photo

Ben McKeown AP Photo

Reviewing Georgia Tech’s 48-20 loss to North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill, N.C. The loss ended the Yellow Jackets’ slim hopes of making it to the ACC title game.

The game in 100 words or less (actually more)

Georgia Tech was going to need its offense to play better than it has all season and its defense to do things that it hasn’t been able to for the past 16 games to give itself a chance to defeat North Carolina on Saturday in Chapel Hill. While the offense played mostly OK in totaling more than 500 yards, the defense was run through for 636 yards on a 9.1-yards-per-play average in a 48-20 loss. Tech also lost key starters Justin Thomas at quarterback and Freddie Burden at center. That total was a season-high for the Tar Heels, surpassing the 635 yards they had against James Madison. It was almost 100 yards more than North Carolina had in its best effort against an ACC team this season.

Three things that worked well

Dedrick Mills. The freshman B-back had his first 100-yard day with 132 yards on 19 carries. He averaged 6.9 yards per carry with a long of 39. He added a touchdown. Mills was the primary B-back because of the absence of the injured Marcus Marshall.

The offensive line. Already seeing two freshmen playing a lot in Parker Braun at left guard and Jahaziel Lee at left tackle, the line took another hit when Burden left with an undisclosed injury. In came freshmen Kenny Cooper at center. The line still helped the Yellow Jackets rush for 334 yards on an average of 5.8 yards per carry.

Clinton Lynch. The A-back continued his impressive season with one catch for 83 yards and a touchdown.

Two things that didn’t work well

The defense. After Duke sliced through Tech’s defense for 559 yards last week, coach Paul Johnson said he wanted calls and communication simplified.

It was difficult to tell what, if anything, would have helped Tech even slow down the Tar Heels, which were responsible for season-highs in passing and rushing against Tech’s defense this season.

North Carolina, best in the ACC at converting third downs, had no trouble against Tech, was worst in FBS at stopping teams on third down, with an 8-of-13 success rate.

North Carolina had the ball for just 27:33 and still racked up more than 600 yards on 70 plays.

North Carolina’s 636 yards of total offense were second most by a Tech opponent most in school history, behind the 667 accumulated by Notre Dame in 1977. The 9.1 yards-per-play average by the Tar Heels was also second against Tech all-time, behind the 10.4 that Miami gained in 2013, which set an ACC record. Johnson said the defense “played about as poorly as you can play on defense, and we weren’t much better on offense or special teams. It’s a deadly combination.”

Tech had no sacks. Tech create no turnovers. Tech had just three tackles for loss. Esteemed colleague Jeff Schultz also says Johnson has no excuses.

“It’s definitely embarrassing. I’m embarrassed, the team’s embarrassed, Coach (Paul) Johnson’s embarrassed, the whole coaching staff,” safety Corey Griffin said.

Running back Elijah Hood was a monster with 168 yards on just 12 carries. The Tar Heels set a season-high for rushing (283), surpassing the 197 set against Illinois in Week 2.

Quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 20-of-32 passes 329 yards and a touchdown.

Red-zone offense. Tech had just two scores in four trips inside the 20-yard line. One field goal was blocked

Rating the position groups

Borrowing from something that is done with soccer, I’ll rate the different position groups game by game using a 1-to-10 system. Ten represents exceptional and one represents a total meltdown. This is just for fun and mostly for conversation, so please don’t take it too seriously. Feel free to post your own ratings in the comments section.

Quarterbacks 7. Thomas had 15 carries for 82 yards and completed 5-of-10 passes for 184 yards and another touchdown before leaving with an injury. Matthew Jordan came in and rushed 11 times for 54 yards.

B-backs 5. Mills’ career high was offset by the two lost fumbles.

A-backs 5. Qua Searcy, who hasn’t been as effective as in the first two games, led the group with seven carries for 30 yards. Lynch added four carries for 29 yards, and the long reception, which was Tech’s longest play from scrimmage since a 95-yard touchdown pass in 2011 against Kansas.

Wide receivers 5. Ricky Jeune led the group with two receptions for 54 yards. Brad Stewart added one for 41 yards.

Offensive line 6. It’s hard to argue with 518 yards and 7.6 yards per play.

Defensive line 2. Hard to argue with these facts: 636 yards, 9.1 yards per play, no turnovers, no impact plays.

Linebackers 2. Hard to argue with these facts: 636 yards, 9.1 yards per play, no turnovers, no impact plays.

Cornerbacks 2. Hard to argue with these facts: 636 yards, 9.1 yards per play, no turnovers, no impact plays.

Safeties 2. Hard to argue with these facts: 636 yards, 9.1 yards per play, no turnovers, no impact plays.

Special teams 5. Harrison Butker kicked two field goals (23 and 42 yards) and had four touchbacks on five kickoffs. The Tar Heels had 32 yards on one return.

What did next week’s opponent do?

Virginia Tech defeated Duke 24-21 in Durham, N.C. Though Frank Beamer is no longer the team’s coach, the Hokies’ special teams proved the difference. With the win, Virginia Tech stays in a tie with the Tar Heels atop the Coastal Division.

What does that mean for Georgia Tech?

While it seemed likely that Tech would reach its sixth win and make it to a bowl, it may no longer be a lock with chances remaining.

The Hokies’ offense is rolling and its defense is playing well enough to give Georgia Tech enough problems, particularly if Burden and Thomas can’t play.

 


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