Giovani Bernard #26 carries the ball with a block by Dwight Jones #83 against Louis Young #8 of the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets at Bobby Dodd Field.
Let's start with the good. Which is, for yet another week, Giovani Bernard. Bernard racked up 202 total yards on 17 carriers and five receptions, scored two touchdowns, and kept the Tar Heels alive more than a couple of times when by all rights he should have been tackled far from the first down marker. Carolina's opening drive was almost entirely Bernard, with him gaining all but eleven yards in their first score. It worked so well the Heels abandoned their previous system of alternating Bernard and Ryan Houston on possessions; Houston only had one carry.
Also good, Dwight Jones. UNC's second scoring drive – sadly, not until the third quarter – was sparked by three straight passes to Jones, on if I recall correctly, the exact same play. He would finish with 85 yards on a less than stellar passing day for Bryn Renner.
Now, everything else. UNC's defense still hasn't found a way to consistently stop Georgia Tech's triple option. The Yellow Jackets gained 312 yards on the ground. You can take small comfort in that there were only two runs of greater than 30 yards, and the Heels did manage five stops over the 12 Tech possessions. Of course, that comfort goes away the first time you see Stephen Hill all alone on a side of the field ready to catch a 59-yard touchdown pass. He was in that position twice, by the way. An inexplicable drop of the second pass is the only reason the score is as close as it was.
When Tevin Washington was finding a ridiculously wide-open receiver, he was still passing pretty well, connecting on 10 of 14 passes for 184 yards. That's more yardage than Tech had gained through the air in any game, this season or last. Washington for the most part had the secondary reeling, forced to worry more about the run, and as such were easy pickings. Tre Boston did get a good interception, but Bryn Renner tossed it right back, so it wasn't much use.
That was a running theme. The defense was rarely given time to rest, either by the three straight UNC three-and-outs in the first half, or the Bryn Renner interception right after a UNC stop gave the Heels the ball down seven in the fourth. Renner had a bad day overall, which means he still went 17 of 25 and threw two touchdown passes. But after UNC fell back behind by seven with 5:20 to play, the wheels fell off. Renner's next drive went four yards backwards, and a final chance, with 1:35 remaining, was a disaster. No one found the sideline, plays took forever to get off, and the game ended when an attempted spike resulted in a player being offsides. Yes, the ten-second runoff rule instituted as a result of the Music City Bowl win came back to bite the Heels, all of four games into the season.
This was a fine opportunity for UNC to win on the road and get a big leg up on the ACC Coastal race, and the Heels dropped the ball. They get to follow this with a road game against a team that will be much more amped to play than they will, and then a stretch of winnable games stretching until the Clemson meeting in late October. But I can't help but be frustrated by the missed opportunity – and the many, many, yards given up – this past Saturday. There's a great season still within this team, but it's not as great as I might hope.