by Jacob Swiger
TV/RAYCOM—Georgia Tech's defense exposed the UNC offense, which couldn't stay on the field long enough to give the defense a rest and prevent the 24-7 loss Saturday in Atlanta.
The Tar Heel offense went 1-for-11 on third down plays while the Yellow Jackets converted 10 out of 19 third down attempts, effectively wearing out the UNC defense so that when Erik Highsmith (pictured) caught a 40-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter the defense was too gassed to force a punt ... or anything.
No. 22-ranked UNC managed to gain only 154 yards and turned the ball over three times, including two costly T.J. Yates interceptions. The running game totaled 17 yards on the ground due to an ineffective offensive line and a botched snap that ruined an early drive for UNC while the game was still in doubt.
Georgia Tech quarterback Josh Nesbitt wore down the UNC defense throughout the game. He carried the ball a staggering 32 times and scored two touchdowns, but reigning ACC player of the year Jonathan Dwyer carved up the defense with 158 yards on the ground. Dwyer and Nesbitt both looked hobbled at times but continued to pound away at a defensive front that had given up at most 72 yards rushing in a game this season.
The most telling statistic was Georgia Tech's time of possession -- just over 42 minutes of the 60 minute contest. The Yellow Jackets put on a clinic for Paul Johnson's clever offense and repaid last season's 28-7 loss in Chapel Hill that kept them out of the ACC championship.
Carolina drops to 3-1 overall and has major concerns on offense after struggling against the only two quality opponents the Heels played this season. UConn and Georgia Tech both have good defenses, but it's becoming obvious the UNC offense remains a season away from being a competitive unit in the ACC—a statement becoming far too familiar for Butch Davis' Heels.
Yet the season is far from over. Carolina will fall out of the rankings and looks inferior to Coastal rivals Miami, Virginia Tech and Georgia Tech, but the offense can develop over the course of the season and UNC might win eight or nine games.
A pickup could happen next week as the Virginia Cavaliers visit Chapel Hill after starting 0-3. But Al Groh's team has a bye this week and historically gives UNC trouble. Still, Carolina's defense alone should guide a 5-1 start when Florida State travels to Chapel Hill on the first Thursday night game hosted in Kenan Stadium.