It was looking like deja vu all over again.
ACC night game against a divisional opponent. All black uniforms. Mired in a losing streak. Unable to get a key first down. Having to punt it away and pinning the other team inside the 20, only to watch helplessly as they drive down the field for a go-ahead touchdown. Saturday night's game against Georgia Tech was eerily like last season's Miami game. Except this year, the Yellow Jackets made a key mistake - they scored too quickly, leaving the Tar Heels three minutes to make a comeback. And come back they did, mainly because Tech couldn't really stop Carolina any more than Carolina could stop the Jackets.
The game was a textbook example of contrasting offensive styles at their finest and defenses at their worst. Tech's triple option gouged the Heels for 376 yards on the ground and 235 yards through the air on only 8 completions, for a total of 611 yards. Carolina's spread offense generated nearly 600 yards on its ledger and ran a crisp 88 plays, right where Larry Fedora wants to play. Both defenses were putrid, getting stops primarily only when the offenses misfired.
But for a team that had lost four in a row, three to ranked teams, any win is a valued win. With that in mind, here is this week's GBU Report:
Marquise Williams: The junior quarterback is marching his way through the UNC record book and into ACC Player of the Year discussion. Williams set a school record for completions with 38 (on 47 attempts) for 390 yards and 4 passing touchdowns. He also added 73 yards rushing and another touchdown. That's 463 yards of offense and 5 touchdowns accounted for. He may be in line for another ACC offensive back of the week award with numbers like that.
T.J. Logan/Romar Morris: Carolina's running back by committee was reduced to a dynamic duo, with Logan rushing for a team-high 75 yards and a touchdown to go with five catches for 31 yards. Morris chipped in 43 yards on the ground with a touchdown and 5 catches for 39 yards. In all, UNC's RBs combined for 126 yards on 24 carries, plus 13 catches for 84 yards. That kind of production from the backs helps Williams' effectiveness so much.
Ryan Switzer: The sophomore followed up a horrible game at Notre Dame with a career game in Kenan. Switzer posted career highs in receptions and yards with 9 catches for 136 yards and two touchdowns.
Offensive line: Much improved play from this group, giving up only one coverage sack on 47 pass attempts and only one penalty - a snap infraction on center Lucas Crowley - in 88 offensive snaps.
Penalties: Speaking of penalties, Carolina had been one of the country's most penalized teams but only had four for 35 yards against the Jackets.
Third down conversions: UNC was an eye-popping 10-15 on 3rd down, but many of them were of the short variety as the Heels stayed ahead of the sticks much of the game. Add going 2-2 on 4th down and it is clear how well Carolina was moving the ball.
Defensive third down conversions: As good as UNC was at converting 3rd downs, they were giving them up at nearly the same rate as Tech converted five of eight chances. Also that means UNC only got Tech to 3rd down eight times.
Yards-per-play: Georgia Tech outgained UNC by 32 yards but did it on 19 fewer plays. The Jackets averaged a mind-blowing 8.9 yards per play.
Overall defense: As a fan, you hope the defense gets better from game to game. After showing some signs of life at Notre Dame, the Carolina defense returned to its horrid ways against Georgia Tech. The entire defensive effort could be filed under the "ugly" category, as UNC forced only two punts all day. The defense surrendered 600+ yards yet again and only the fact that the Tech defense couldn't really shut down UNC either is the only reason the Tar Heels won the game.
Pass defense: I remain amazed at just how bad Carolina's secondary is. After no real badly blown assignments last week, the sieve-like defensive backfield returned. UNC surrendered almost 240 yards on only 8 completions, nearly 30 yards each. Three of the 8 completions went for touchdowns, two of which were over 40 yards. Mind boggling.
And yet, despite the defensive struggles, Carolina won the game. In some ways I am willing to give the Tar Heels a pass given how enigmatic Georgia Tech has been for them in the post-Mack Brown era, but relying on outscoring an opponent is a dangerous way to live. Still it worked on Saturday and stopped the bleeding of the four-game losing streak. UNC is pretty much on even footing over its remaining five games, but won't be clearly favored in any of them either. One game at a time, my friends, one game at a time.