It looked like the Yellow Jackets might run away with the game on Saturday in Chapel Hill, but the Tar Heels made the Yellow Jackets sweat late. Paul Johnson and Georgia Tech would come away with the win on Saturday, but the biggest victory may have come in the quarterback battle.
Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech vs North Carolina
So how did Tech perform in their 38-28 victory against North Carolina? Let’s discuss in our ninth edition of Fast Analysis: Georgia Tech 2018.
Coach Johnson announced earlier this week that fans would see TaQuon Marshall start the game for the Yellow Jackets this week. But Johnson also mentioned that fans would see both quarterbacks play against North Carolina. Those reading between the lines took that as Coach Johnson saying, TaQuon will start out of respect for what he has done for us, but Tobias is coming in as soon as we stall on offense. And you know what, that is exactly what happened. And it turns out that Johnson handled that difficult situation perfectly.
Georgia Tech’s opening drive ended in a fumble that the Tar Heels would scoop up and score. The drive lasted two plays and produced negative one yard. Georgia Tech has been plagued with fumbles this year. Last week against Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech protected the ball much better and produced the most complete game of the season. Marshall and company came back out on the field and turned around momentum75-yard 75 yard touchdown drive. He began the drive with a 44-yard rushing play as well.
Marshall played one more drive in the first half, giving way to Tobias Oliver after Marshall’s last drive ended with a punt. How would Oliver fair when it was his turn to lead the offense? He came out and led the offense on a 45-yard touchdown drive and score a two-yard touchdown run himself. Can it get better than that for Tech fans? Yes! Georgia Tech’s next drive lasted one play. Oliver threw to a wide-open Qua Searcy for the 86 yard touchdown.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 3, 2018
The Yellow Jackets elected to go for it on fourth down on North Carolina’s six-yard line towards the end of the second quarter. Oliver needed two yards and got stuffed for no gain to turn the ball over on downs with 33 seconds left in the first half. It was a disappointing finish to the half, but Oliver and the Yellow Jackets outgained the Tar Heels in the first half to the tune of 295 yards to 126 yards.
Georgia Tech’s defense showed up to play in the first half. With the exception of the offensive turnover for a touchdown by the North Carolina defense, the Yellow Jackets only gave up three points in the first half.
After giving up opening drive touchdowns to Duke and Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech’s defense would not allow a touchdown until the third quarter. North Carolina’s first four drives proceeded as follows:
- Eight plays, 30 yards, PUNT
- Three plays, five yards, PUNT
- One play, zero yards, INTERCEPTION
- Six plays, 21 yards, PUNT
With four minutes left on the clock in the first half, Georgia Tech’s defense came up big by forcing a negative yard play after North Carolina was on the Georgia Tech one-yard line. These are the momentum plays that Georgia Tech’s defense needs to make if they are going to be bowl-eligible, and even compete for a coastal championship.
Georgia Tech entered halftime leading 21-10.
It’s refreshing to write positive words about Georgia Tech’s special teams. After the first month of the year, this writer’s soul was exhausted – to say the least. But hats off to the adjustments the Georgia Tech special teams coaches have made since September.
The second half confirmed that the quarterback position belonged to Oliver. The only question that remains is how much of a role will Marshall play in the offense moving forward? A-back? Backup role only? Fans will see soon enough.
The second half offense was not as efficient as the first half, but when it counted they scored. That is a new narrative with Oliver under the helm. After North Carolina scored 17 unanswered points and tied the game at 28, Oliver led the offense on a nine play, 41 yard touchdown drive. That touchdown drive gave the Yellow Jackets the lead with three minutes left in the fourth.
As stated above, the ability to score when it mattered late in contests is not something Georgia Tech was able to do early in the season. Think back to losses against South Florida and Pittsburgh in September. Georgia Tech had opportunities to win those games in the fourth quarter but could not close it out. With Oliver, it looks as though the offense expects to score now.
The offense finished the game with 565 yards (461 rushing; 104 passing). This is the fifth time this season that Georgia Tech has rushed for over 400 yards. Believe it or not, that is a new school record! Fans are hoping for a continuation of this trend.
While Nate Woody’s defense produced three interceptions today, they lost steam in the second half. The defense allowed the Tar Heels to come back and almost pull off the upset, and probably knock Georgia Tech out of bowl-eligibility.
But, thankfully, we are discussing a different outcome tonight. Anree Saint-Amour came up huge for the Yellow Jackets with three minutes left in the fourth quarter. Saint-Amour has proven himself to be a formidable opponent since week one. His presence on the defensive line elevates his teammate’s play. Saint-Amour finished the day with nine total tackles; including three solo tackles, one tackle for loss, and three quarterback hurries.
— ACC Digital Network (@theACCDN) November 3, 2018
The defense would give up 374 total yards to the Tar Heels offense on Saturday. 248 yards would come in the second half. The Tar Heels average 410 total yards of offense per game, so Georgia Tech’s defense did their jobs. The defense just made it a little too interesting at the end of the game.
Wesley Wells has been as consistent as humanly possible since he taken over kicking duties for the Yellow Jackets. His field goal at the end of the game made it a two-possession game and sealed the victory.
Harvin III has also been punting the ball well. Again, no one ever wants to have write anything different while covering the punter and field goal kicker.
How Fans Are Feeling Now
Fans are remaining hopeful that Georgia Tech can make a bowl game. The Yellow Jackets have three games remaining on the schedule and need only one more win to become bowl-eligible. An ACC coastal championship is not an impossibility. It just requires a few more things to go in Georgia Tech’s favor.
Regardless, the substitution of Oliver at quarterback looks as though it might have saved Johnson’s parking spot at the Georgia Tech athletic facilities. Not only that, but the fact that Georgia Tech’s offense is still breaking records, and the defense is getting better every week, makes it harder and harder to justify making a coaching change.
If the Yellow Jackets can win their final two home games against Miami (Nov.10) and Virginia (Nov 17), and pull off the upset against Georgia (Nov 24), they might even be constructing a statue in Johnson’s honor. What a turnaround that would be for Georgia Tech and Johnson. November will be interesting to say the least.