North Carolina needed a solid performance against Georgia Tech to continue its momentum one week after almost beating Clemson.
But on Saturday, against a struggling Yellow Jacket team, there were times when UNC looked anything but solid.
While the Tar Heels beat Georgia Tech, 38-22, their offense made a lot of mistakes. Their receivers dropped six passes and committed six penalties for 60 yards, including one that cost them at least a field goal.
Earlier in the week, UNC coach Mack Brown said he wasn’t pleased with his team’s focus in practice. It appeared to carry over into the game.
But a victory is a victory, and UNC snapped a three-game losing streak that dated back to a Sept. 13 loss at Wake Forest.
Through six games, the Tar Heels have surpassed their win total from the 2018 season, and have matched it from the 2017 season.
UNC will enter its bye week 3-3, and a 2-1 in the conference. They remain in good position to compete for the ACC Coastal Division.
After a shaky first quarter in which they led 3-0, the Tar Heels finally got on a roll. UNC freshman quarterback Sam Howell threw two touchdown passes in the second quarter — a 20-yard touchdown pass to Dazz Newsome and a six-yard touchdown pass to Beau Corrales.
At halftime, UNC led 17-0.
But in the third quarter, the Tar Heels made some mistakes, and allowed Georgia Tech to cut its lead 17-7. UNC and Georgia Tech traded scores throughout the second half. But the Tar Heels sealed the game after Javonte Williams’ four-yard touchdown run put them up 38-15 with 3:24 left in the game.
Before Saturday’s game, UNC was 1-9 against Georgia Tech in Atlanta since the 1998 season. Its lone win was in 2015, when then-UNC quarterback Marquise Williams helped the Tar Heels overcome a 21-point deficit.
Prior to UNC’s game against Georgia Tech, the school announced that Cam Kelly has a torn ACL and is out for the season. Freshman safety Don Chapman started in Kelly’s place, and came up with the first interception of his career in his first start.
Howell had a career day. He completed 33 of 51 passes for 376 yards and four touchdowns. All were career-highs. He had an interception in the first quarter, but he was able to shake it off.
The Tar Heels’ receivers dropped at least six passes from Howell on Saturday. Four of those drops were in the first quarter by three different receivers. Three of those drops had the potential to be touchdowns.
Sophomore wide receiver Dyami Brown, who dropped three passes, made up for it in the fourth quarter after catching an 18-yard pass from Howell in the corner of the endzone. He managed to get a foot in bounds before falling out.
The Tar Heels were also outscored in the second half 22-21.
UNC sophomore cornerback Tre Morrison left the game with an upper body injury in the first half and did not return. The Tar Heels are thin in the secondary. Senior cornerback Patrice Rene suffered a torn ACL against Miami, Kelly suffered his ACL injury last week, and junior safety Myles Wolfolk is out indefinitely with a lower body injury.
14 The number of points UNC outscored Georgia Tech by in the second quarter. The Tar Heels hadn’t outscored an opponent in the second quarter all season. But in this game, they finally played well in the second quarter.
211 Rushing yards for the Tar Heels. Sophomore running back Javonte Williams rushed for a career-high 144 rushing yards, while junior Michael Carter added 68 yards.
10 of 12 UNC on fourth downs this season. The Tar Heels have been dominant in that area. On Saturday, they went for it on fourth-and-seven from the Georgia Tech 35, and Howell completed a pass to junior wide receiver Rontavius Groves for 20 yards.