UNC captured by Georgia Tech

Jason Staples and Buck Sanders join host Tommy Ashley on the Inside Carolina Day After Podcast to understand North Carolina’s 21-17 loss to Georgia Tech. The Heels led 17-0 in the second quarter but failed to score another goal as Tech’s defense confused Carolina’s normally strong offense and Yellow Jacket’s struggling offense did just enough to give the visitors the win.

If you’ve followed North Carolina football for years like Sanders and Ashley, Saturday’s game wasn’t entirely out of the question. As Ashley notes, “We’ve seen this movie before.”

But the discussion digs deeper into the issues and weaknesses that might rear their respective heads once more when the high stakes are at hand. Mack Brown has been here before, and while he spent the last week talking about this tech game as the “trap” awaiting his team, those words proved futile. It was a total system failure that almost everyone saw coming, but nobody could prevent.

How did it happen? Staples and Sanders both agree that the physical aspect of the game made all the difference. Georgia Tech bullied UNC’s offensive line all game. Drake Maye didn’t have his best game, but according to Staples, a lot of it consisted of the tech defenders consistently shoving the bag into Maye’s lap. Jacket defender Keion White was credited with three sacks and four tackles for the loss alone. Jack Bicknell’s group, which previously gave Maye opportunities to do plays, had no response. Elijah Green’s 80-yard rush in the first game of scrimmage for Carolina is notable, but considering Green didn’t succeed after that, it wasn’t just the pass rush that threw Phil Longo’s offense.

Defensively, aside from a few players who continue to stand out, Cedric Gray led the team with 14 tackles and Storm Duck grabbed another interception, according to Staples and Sanders it was more of the same. The lack of physicality off the defensive front is a recurring theme, Staples says, but add to the problems with running backs from the backfield, the heels couldn’t find the timely stop they’ve benefited from over the six weeks.

Ashley is in town at 3:30 p.m. Friday at Kenan Stadium with a 9-2 win against NC State and the question is: Is there a single positive result from the brutal loss? Sanders points to what lies ahead with the Wolfpack and Clemson over the next two weeks, and this game could certainly be a course correction for the Heels. But Staples and Sanders agree that while Georgia Tech still has opportunities for this UNC team, it has set the blueprint for what could likely be to come.

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