Sunday Storylines: The Swing
Let's face it: Saturday's 68-50 loss to Georgia Tech, in which 16 touchdowns, two field goals, 14 extra points and a two-point conversion were scored, wasn't won or lost in a single sequence. But there was a period of three minutes and 34 seconds in the third quarter on which the game hinged.
After Vad Lee orchestrated a 70-yard touchdown drive, Georgia Tech kicked off with a 41-36 lead. To that point (9:52 in the third quarter), the teams had traded scores to open the half. Jamal Golden's kickoff return touchdown had been answered by Giovani Bernard's brilliant catch and run for a 78-yard score. After Robert Godhigh's score, the Tar Heels would need to answer, not only to to recapture the lead, but to keep momentum on the home sideline.
Sean Tapley put the resulting kickoff on the ground, and if not for special teams ace Pete Mangum, Carolina would have given the ball to the Yellow Jackets then and there. Alas, on the next play, Bryn Renner's soft toss was picked off by defensive end Izaan Cross, and Georgia Tech took over at the Carolina 19.
The Tar Heel defense held the Yellow Jackets to a field goal on that series, putting the lead at eight. But the next Carolina offensive sequence ended with punter Tommy Hibbard attempting to convert a 4th and 10 on the ground and coming up eight yards short. One play later, Georgia Tech was in the end zone again.
In that stretch, Georgia Tech extended a five point lead to 15, while Carolina's offense mustered just two yards. The game wasn't over, certainly; Tim Scott's interception return for a touchdown cut the Tech lead to eight to open the fourth quarter. But Georgia Tech went back to work and outscored the Tar Heels by 10 the rest of the way.
As I mentioned in my GoHeels.com postgame column yesterday, the Tar Heels knew all week that they'd have to trust each other and themselves, and maintain assignment discipline. After Scott's interception, it was the Yellow Jackets who put on a clinic, who trusted the game plan that Paul Johnson brought to Atlanta and has made the Tar Heels look helpless.