For much of the first half this game fulfilled every awful expectation UNC fans had. Georgia Tech moved the ball at will on the ground striking on the first drive of the game for a 7-0 lead. Despite the need to respond in kind, the Tar Heels' first drive of the bogged down at the Georgia Tech 43 giving the Jackets the ball back with 6:18 left in the first quarter.
That would be the last time UNC would see the ball in the quarter. Georgia Tech's offense continued to roll consuming 7:40 and pushing the lead to 14-0 on a 14 yard Connor Lynch touchdown run. UNC again failed to get any traction relying too much on the pass and following another lengthy Georgia Tech drive, the Tar Heels were facing a three touchdown deficit with four minutes left in the half.
For UNC to get back in the game, they needed to take advantage of every possession and they did. A healthy dose of Elijah Hood moved the football leading to UNC's first touchdown of the game on a two yard run from the sophomore tailback with 1:29 left. UNC then got a much needed stop and a bad Yellow Jacket punt to put in business on the Georgia Tech 44. WIlliams orchestrated a masterful drive on short time capping it off with a seven yard touchdown run make it 21-14 at the half.
UNC received the ball to start the second but ended up settling for a Nick Weiler 37 yard field goal after a productive drive that was helped along by a Yellow Jacket facemask penalty. UNC's first defensive series off the half got off to a solid start Jeff Schoettmer dropping Isiah Williams for a loss on first down. UNC followed up this rare stop of the Georgia Tech run by giving up pass plays for a first down then a touchdown to put the Heels down 11 five minutes into the third quarter.
Improbably that would be the last touchdown Georgia Tech scored. After another solid drive where Williams used his arm and legs to move the Tar Heels down the field for Hood's second touchdown of the day. Then UNC got what seemed like a game changing stop on 4th down. Sam Smiley appeared to stand Patrick Skov up short of the first down but after questionable spot and this measurement, Georgia Tech was awarded a first down.
UNC would get a second chance to stop the Jackets on fourth down stuffing Justin Thomas twice at the goal line to bend almost in half but not break. The Heels failed to capitalize on the opportunity however and a horrible punt put Georgia Tech at the UNC 36 leading by four. To this point both teams had played a clean game until UNC's Cayson Collins got to Justin Thomas and forced a fumble. Junior Gnonkonde returned it into Georgia Tech territory giving UNC a chance to take the lead.
The Tar Heels did not disappoint with a reverse pass from Quinshad Davis to Marquise Williams to put the Heels in front 31-28. On the subsequent Yellow Jacket possession, Cayson Collins dropped Patrick Skov for a loss to force 4th and 5. Thomas' pass on fourth down was incomplete and the Heels had the ball back.
Facing 4th and 5 on its own UNC again turned to Williams who kept the ball and romped 27 yards to give UNC a 10 point lead. Georgia Tech closed to within seven on a field goal. Nick Weiler tried to seal the deal from 47 yards but missed wide right. It ultimately didn't matter as Georgia Tech ran out of time.
Marquise Williams led the Tar Heels in all three offensive categories. He went 13-24 for 135 yards, rushed for 148 yards and was the leading receiver with 37 yards. He ran for two touchdowns and had a touchdown reception.
For only the third time since 1997 UNC has won its ACC opener and for the first time since 1997 the Tar Heel leave Atlanta with a football win over Georgia Tech. UNC moves to 4-1 overall and 1-0 in the ACC,