After absorbing an upset loss in their latest outing, the No. 17 North Carolina Tar Heels will aim to bounce back when they travel to Atlanta on Saturday to face Georgia Tech.
The Tar Heels (6-1, 3-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) saw their unbeaten record blemished and their hopes of making the College Football Playoff diminished when they lost 31-27 to visiting Virginia last week.
North Carolina was just 4-of-15 on third- and fourth-down conversions in the defeat and allowed the Cavaliers a 37-minute to 23-minute edge in time of possession. The Tar Heels lost despite leading by as much as 10 points in the third quarter.
After falling behind with 8:51 to play, North Carolina saw its first three offensive series end in a punt, on failed fourth-down play and an interception.
On Monday, North Carolina offensive coordinator Chip Lindsey took some blame for the loss, and for not getting the ball into the hands of running back Omarion Hampton more often.
“I got to do a better job, just being honest with you, (about) making sure that gets done. That’s on me as coordinator, I’m responsible for it all,” Lindsey said. “Omarion is a great player and I think he ended up with 19 carries.
“Disappointed that we didn’t finish the game like we wanted to. We had some opportunities at the end.”
Indeed, while Hampton rushed 19 times for 112 yards, it felt as if he could have had even more yards on the ground as he averaged 5.9 yards per carry. He was never stopped for a loss by Virginia. North Carolina could have utilized other ball carriers, too. Other than Hampton’s production, the Heels ran 10 times for 31 yards.
“Why didn’t I step up and say, ‘Come on, maybe hand it to Omarion more?’ ” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “You hate to get involved with play selection during a game because I’ve done that, but that’s my job.”
Georgia Tech (3-4, 2-2) is also licking its wounds after taking a 38-23 home loss to Boston College last week. The Yellow Jackets had 452 yards of total offense, but they gave up 563 yards to the Eagles. And Georgia Tech quarterback Haynes King threw three interceptions — one of which was a pick-six and another that led to a Boston College scoring drive.
The Yellow Jackets led 23-17 heading into the fourth quarter before squandering their advantage and getting outscored 21-0 in the final period.
“We have to play better football in the fourth quarter and be in a better place to be able to sustain an edge and a toughness that we have to be able to in those situations,” Georgia Tech coach Brent Key said. “Looking forward to the game this weekend, we have a good opponent coming in.”
Should the Yellow Jackets win on Saturday, it would be the third straight year they have defeated a ranked North Carolina team. Georgia Tech leads the all-time series against the Tar Heels 32-22-3, having prevailed in four of the past five matchups.