Things weren’t always rosy last season for Georgia Tech. There were losses, and they weren’t always pretty. While the Yellow Jackets found the knack for comeback wins — securing three total in 2008 — they also proved susceptible to blowout defeats. On two occasions, they lost by more than three touchdowns.
But even in such losses, there were positives in which the team could take solace. The biggest example of such a game came Nov. 8 of last year, when the Yellow Jackets took on North Carolina in an ACC showdown on the road.
Photo from daylife.com. Here, Tech defensive back Michael Peterson chases down a loose fumble against North Carolina last season. Although Peterson was playing defense in this picture, his scramble for the ball perfectly replicated a scene the Yellow Jackets' offense duplicated all day. In total, Tech fumbled the ball four times.
At the time, both teams were deadlocked in a four-team, late-season race for the Coastal Division title, with no clear winner in sight. A victory for either could greatly aid the winning program’s chances of heading to Tampa, Fla., for the conference championship a month later.
But after a wild offensive struggle, triumph that Saturday would not be in the cards for the Yellow Jackets. They lost to the Tar Heels 28-7 in a game in which the box score didn’t necessarily match the big final score. Upon further review of the statistics, Georgia Tech actually outplayed North Carolina in most offensive areas. In some cases, the Yellow Jackets completely dominated the Tar Heels.
Take a look at the rushing and total offense numbers for example. Georgia Tech outrushed North Carolina 326 yards to 186, while also having 111 more yards of total offense than the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets also averaged bigger gains per play than North Carolina, and racked up more first downs.
So what happened? Turnovers, missed defensive assignments, and — many in Georgia Tech’s camp believe — several blown calls combined to give North Carolina the momentum at home, and the ability to stage a three-touchdown effort in the fourth quarter, solidifying the blowout. Although there were offensive categories Georgia Tech clearly won that day, the one statistic head coach Paul Johnson calls the most important, was not. That day, the number in the “L” statistical column outweighed the number in the “W” column.
Two weeks later, however, Johnson’s team rectified that issue en route to a major win over Miami, and then an historic win the next week over a team that had dominated the Yellow Jackets much of the past decade. More on that contest still to come.