Chapel Hill, NC – The North Carolina Tar Heels hosted Georgia Tech for their homecoming game after coming off of a bye week. The Tar Heels wanted to come out very strong, and that could be seen from the first drive. The Tar Heels would open the game marching down the field, ending their first drive of the day with a one yard touchdown run by Elijah Hood to take a 7-0 lead.
Georgia Tech punted the ball back to the Tar Heels on the next drive and that would lead to a 37 yard field goal by kicker Nick Weiler to put the home team up by ten on their homecoming. Hood mentioned that “…the team as a whole really wanted to start fast. Especially at home, we have not really done that yet this year.”
The Yellow Jackets would quickly respond when Justin Thomas found Clinton Lynch for a 83 yard catch and run that would give GT their first points of the game and make the score 10-7 in favor of Carolina. Carolina would be stopped on third down and presented with a 4th and 1 opportunity. Head coach Larry Fedora decided to go for it and let Hood try to power for a yard. Instead of power, Hood sped through the middle of the defense and found himself with a touchdown 36 yard later to extend the score to 17-7. Through the first quarter, Hood had racked up 114 yards rushing and two touchdowns. That was the most rushing yards he had ever accumulated in an opening quarter. When asked if he expected to reach 100 yards so quickly, Hood acted appalled that those type numbers belonged to him. Once finally convinced that he actually had over 100 yards in the first quarter, Hood replied that I don’t know, I was just explosive today. I came in with a mindset of trying to start fast, and I think “[we] definitely did that.”
The score would not change heading in to the second quarter until Georgia Tech got a field goal, only for UNC’s Weiler to return the favor. The fifty yard field goal made the score 20-10 and it was Weiler’s third successful attempt from fifty yards or more this season. The ensuing drive, GT marched down the field and a controversial run by Tech’s Dedrick Mills, where the runner appeared to be down but it was later confirmed that he never touched the ground, set up the Yellow Jackets to get another touchdown. Mills would cap off the drive to make the score 20-17. Carolina would answer back two plays later when quarterback Mitch Trubisky found Bug Howard streaking down the right sideline for a 68 y
Georgia Tech would come out to get a field goal, then the Heels shut down the Yellow Jackets for the rest of the half as part of a 21-3 second half run to put the final score at 48-20. This can certainly be seen as a confidence boost as the Tar Heels seem to be peaking at the right time of the season. Trubisky finished with 329 yards and one touchdown on a 20 of 32 passing performance.
Elijah Hood finished with 168 yards and three touchdowns on 12 carries. Coach Fedora mentioned that coming in to this week, “[Hood] is as close to 100 percent as he has been all year, and that means going all the way back to [training] camp.” Despite both teams earning over 500 yards of total offense each, maybe the defense was the gem of the day. They played a nearly perfect half in the second half after Fedora told his defense to “play like they are pissed off.” A blocked field goal, two fumbles forced, no touchdowns scored, and they knocked opposing quarterback Justin Thomas out of the game. Coach Fedora said that he “never feels like you are in a comfort range when playing [Georgia Tech] because you know those guys can always score. And that is what I am so proud of our defense for. That is why we talked about somehow beside turnovers, we needed to steal a couple of possessions. That means stopping them on a 3rd and short or 4th and short, which we did once. And we also had to block a field goal, and we did, which is three games now that we have blocked a field goal.”
The Tar Heels have a short week as they travel to Duke next week for a Thursday night game. The week will be a light week of practice as the coaching staff focuses on keeping his team mentally and physically fresh heading in to a rivalry game that I know would mean a lot for the Victory Bell to remain in Chapel Hill.
(Photos courtesy of UNC Athletics)