Tar Heels haven’t forgotten the sting
North Carolina coach Larry Fedora never brings up the 2012 game against Georgia Tech to his players. He doesn’t have to.
“If you played in that game last year, you know,” Fedora said Monday. “It doesn’t just disappear from your memory. So you know.”
UNC lost to the Yellow Jackets 68-50 a year ago in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. After the Tar Heels’ defense used that debacle as a motivating factor throughout the offseason, it will get another chance at containing the triple-option offense Saturday in Atlanta (noon, ESPN).
“It’s definitely something the defense talks about,” senior defensive tackle Tim Jackson said. “We’ve talked about it since the day it happened and making sure it didn’t happen again.”
UNC (1-1) already has changed the way it prepared for Georgia Tech (2-0). Jackson said that for the first time since he’s been at UNC, the scout team employed cut blocking — a favorite, though potentially dangerous, technique employed by the Yellow Jackets’ linemen that Duke coach David Cutcliffe thinks should be banned.
“Scout guys are taking shots at our knees — not maliciously, just to simulate what will happen this Saturday,” Jackson said. “It’s definitely changed the flow of practice.”
Georgia Tech’s offense has continued to roll through its first two games behind Durham native Vad Lee at quarterback, putting up 70 points in the opener against Elon and 38 this past Saturday at Duke.
Lee also has brought an added dimension with his arm — against the Blue Devils, he became the first Georgia Tech quarterback since Coach Paul Johnson took over in 2008 to throw four touchdown passes in a game.
Lee’s ability as a dual-threat quarterback will put even more pressure on UNC’s defense. But Fedora stressed that it’s not entirely up to the defense to improve on the 2012 showing.
The special teams allowed Georgia Tech to return the second-half kickoff for a touchdown and also failed on a fake punt deep in UNC territory, while the offense turned the ball over inside its own 20 and also fumbled in the red zone.
“I know everybody jumped all over the defense, and we’re not sitting there condoning the way the defense played, but it was not a one-sided deal,” Fedora said. “It was not just the defense that gave up problems or created problems for us. It was the entire team.”
Because Georgia Tech can take so much time off the clock on its possessions, Fedora said it was critical for UNC to take care of the football and finish drives.
Even after scoring 50 points, Renner said the offense was just as unhappy as the defense a year ago.
“We didn’t score enough points to win,” Renner said. “As an offense, we felt horrible about the loss, just as (the defense) did and just as special teams did. It’s a collective effort when you lose a game.”
Still, there’s one unit in particular that’s looking to make amends.
“Just seeing those points on the board hurt for me, so I know it hurt for those guys out in the field,” said Jackson, who missed the game to protect an injured knee. “To know the offense put up 50 points — they did everything they could to put us in position to win the game — and for the defense to let them down, we all took it personally.”
Another early start
UNC’s Sept. 28 home game against East Carolina will kick off at 12:30 p.m. and be televised by WRAL, the ACC announced Monday.
It will be the third straight noon or 12:30 p.m. start for the Tar Heels, who kicked off at 12:30 p.m. in its previous home game against Middle Tennessee on Sept. 7.