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Heel Tough Blog: Georgia Tech Preview

Updated: Nov 19, 2022

After completing a perfect season on the road last weekend at Wake Forest to book a ticket to Charlotte, the Tar Heels return to the friendly confines of Kenan Stadium to face Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels will hope to enact some revenge on the team that derailed their season a year ago as they look to continue their path towards a possible NY6 bowl game.

Team Breakdowns

Tar Heels

The Tar Heels come into this game on a hot streak of 6 wins. This includes arguably their biggest win of the season last week at Wake Forest. All of this led by the Heisman candidate Drake Maye. Maye comes into this game 3rd in yards, 1st in touchdowns, and 4th in QBR in the FBS this season. Maye accounts for 79% of the team's offense and is truly the engine that makes this team go. Look for Maye to take advantage of a defense that is ranked 57th in passing yards per game. A decent ranking but not nearly good enough to slow down Maye. Maye's most reliable target, Josh Downs, is coming off his best game of the season with 154 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. Look for him to do more of the same this week. A big point of concern for Carolina fans is the health of Antoine Green, UNC's best vertical threat. He went out of the game against Wake Forest with an upper body injury and there's no word on whether or not he'll play this week. If he is not able to play look for JJ Jones, Kobe Paysour, and Gavin Blackwell to pick up the slack. The Tar Heels have been plagued by injuries in the running back room, but Elijah Green has stepped up and made an impact in their place. Green has seized the RB1 spot and has scored a touchdown in four straight games. Despite Greens emergence the running game has left more to be desired. The Tar Heels clock in at 56th nationally in rushing yards per game. With a large part of those yards coming from Drake Maye. Look for the Tar Heels to try to establish the run early against Georgia Tech’s struggling run defense, which is ranked outside of the top 100 nationally. Although the Tar Heels have not rushed the ball great, their offensive line has performed better than last year in all aspects. This is partly due to Maye getting the ball out quickly, but there have also been some major strides taken by everyone along the unit.

The Tar Heels defense feels like an anomaly. Despite being 124th in total defense, they are able to make the right plays at the right time. Cam'Ron Kelly was able to get a game changing interception late in the 4th to set up a game winning field goal last week. Gene Chizik's "bend don't break" defense is doing just enough for the Tar Heels to win games, but the question is will that be sustainable with the defenses the team is set to face in the next two weeks after this game? At this point in the season it's unrealistic to expect the defense to be anything more than it is. The Tar Heels had some success when bringing pressure against opposing quarterbacks and it showed up again last week when it needed to. Chizik will have to bring pressure in this one as well and force the issue for a Georgia Tech offense that will be one their third-string quarterback.

The Tar Heels special teams unit was special a week ago against the Demon Deacons. Noah Burnette missed an extra point late in the first half that could have been big, but made up for that mistake by nailing the game-winning 33-yard field goal with 2:12 to go. Both George Pettaway and Will Hardy had outstanding nights in the kick return game and should be a big part of that unit in the remaining four games of the season.

Although the Tar Heels are heavily favored heavily, this is being coined a trap game by some with what lays ahead for the team. The Tar Heels can’t take this game lightly like they did a year ago, or else they could be in for another nail-biter.

Georgia Tech

Georgia Tech enters this game just 1-3 in their last four games after an initial boost from the firing of previous head coach Geoff Collins. Interim coach Brent Key faces another challenge as they must lean on third-string quarterback Zach Gibson with both Jeff Sims and Zach Pyron on the shelf with what appear to be season-ending injuries. Gibson is not quite as mobile as the other two quarterbacks, meaning that the team will lean heavily on the backfield duo of Hassan Hall and Dontae Smith who haven’t been able to do consistently this season. Part of that is due to an offensive line that might be one of the worst in all of Power 5 football this year. The unit ranks outside of the top 120 in tackles for loss and sacks allowed and five of the six players that have played significant reps so far this season for the unit have allowed double-digit pressures. Slot receiver Nate McCollum is a playmaker that the Tar Heels need to be aware of, but this is still a group of weapons that the team should be able to shut down.

The Georgia Tech defense has been the strength of the team so far this year, but it is a unit that is coming off of arguably its worst performance of the season against a struggling Miami offense. Still, this is a more than capable group led by its defensive front with edge rusher Keion White and defensive tackle D’Quan Douse. The secondary has been solid so far this season, especially on the back end with the safety duo of LaMiles Brooks and Clayton Powell-Lee leading the way. The linebacking corps is led by Ayinde Eley, but it a group that has been at the head of the team’s issues stopping the run, which the Tar Heels will need to attack in this one.

The Georgia Tech special teams has had a really strong season and will present a challenge for the Tar Heels. Placekicker Gavin Stewart has yet to miss a field goal so far this season since taking over the duties and the return games with Hassan Hall and Nate McCollum have been very solid. Punter David Shanahan is probably the weakest part of the unit, but even he has had a solid season to this point.

Team Stats

Tar Heels

Off. PPG: 40.1 (9th)

Off. PYPG: 341.6 (3rd)

Off. RYPG: 163.9 (56th)

Off. TYPG: 505.5 (4th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 51.5% (8th)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 57.0 (T-67th)

Sacks Allowed: 26.0 (T-90th)

Def. PPG: 31.3 (T-109th)

Def. PYPG: 281.8 (121st)

Def. RYPG: 179.1 (101st)

Def. TYPG: 460.9 (125th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 41.2% (93rd)

Tackles for A Loss: 38.0 (T-129th)

Sacks: 15.0 (T-111th)

Interceptions: 7 (T-73rd)

Turnover Margin: +2 (T-52nd)

Penalties Per Game: 6.9 (T-96th)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 61.1 (97th)

Georgia Tech

Off. PPG: 17.1 (125th)

Off. PYPG: 190.4 (112th)

Off. RYPG: 137.0 (85th)

Off. TYPG: 327.4 (113th)

Off. 3rd Down %: 29.0 (128th)

Tackles For A Loss Allowed: 84.0 (T-124th)

Sacks Allowed: 35.0 (T-122nd)

Def. PPG: 28.7 (87th)

Def. PYPG: 220.4 (58th)

Def. RYPG: 184.3 (109th)

Def. TYPG: 404.7 (95th)

Def. 3rd Down %: 38.2% (67th)

Tackles for A Loss: 62.0 (T-48th)

Sacks: 22.0 (T-68th)

Interceptions: 10 (T-35th)

Turnover Margin: +11 (T-4th)

Penalties Per Game: 6.1 (T-59th)

Penalty Yards Per Game: 57.1 (T-74th)

Injury Report

Tar Heels

OUT- British Brooks (lower leg), Sebastian Cheeks (upper body), Ja’Qurious Conley (lower body), Des Evans (upper body), Caleb Hood (upper body), Jahlil Taylor (lower body), Noah Taylor (lower body), Raymond Vohasek (upper body)

QUEST- Antoine Green (upper body)

Georgia Tech

OUT- Jaylon King (undisclosed), Zach Pyron (shoulder), Jeff Sims (foot)

Projected Starting Lineups

Tar Heels Offense

QB#10 Drake Maye, RFr.

RB#21 Elijah Green, So.

WR# 5 J.J. Jones, So.

WR# 3 Antoine Green, Sr.

WR#11 Josh Downs, Jr.

TE#88 Kamari Morales, Jr. OR #18 Bryson Nesbit, So. OR #81 John Copenhaver, So.

LT#72 Asim Richards, Sr.

LG#63 Ed Montilus, Sr.

C#65 Corey Gaynor, Sr.

RG#76 William Barnes, Sr.

RT#75 Spencer Rolland, Sr. Defense

NOSE#98 Kevin Hester Jr., Jr.

3-TECH# 8 Myles Murphy, Jr.

END#25 Kaimon Rucker, Jr.

JACK#17 Chris Collins, Sr.

MIKE#23 Power Echols, So.

ILB#33 Cedric Gray, Jr.

CB# 1 Tony Girmes, Jr.

BS#27 Giovanni Biggers, Sr.

FS# 9 Cam’Ron Kelly, Sr.

CB# 3 Storm Duck, Jr.

STAR#16 DeAndre Boykins, So. Special Teams

K#98 Noah Burnette, So.

KOS#98 Noah Burnette, So.

P#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

LS K- #62 Spencer Triplett, So. P- #61 Drew Little, Sr.H#91 Ben Kiernan, Sr.

KR#23 George Pettaway, Fr.

PR#11 Josh Downs, Jr.

Georgia Tech Offense

QB#15 Zach Gibson, So.

RB# 3 Hassan Hall, Sr. OR # 4 Dontae Smith, Jr. OR # 6 Dylan McDuffie, Jr.

WR# 0 E.J. Jenkins, Sr.

WR# 8 Nate McCollum, So.

WR# 7 Malachi Carter, Sr.

TE# 2 Dylan Leonard, Jr.

LT#55 Corey Robinson II, RFr.

LG#71 Pierce Quick, So.

C#72 Weston Franklin, So.

RG#54 Jordan Williams, So.

RT#75 Jakiah Leftwich, RFr. Defense

DE# 6 Keion White, Sr.

DT# 8 Makius Scott, So.

DT#99 D’Quan Douse, So.

DE# 9 Kyle Kennard, So.

LB(MAC)# 2 Ayinde Eley, Sr.

LB(MONEY)# 1 Charlie Thomas, Sr.

SS#20 LaMiles Brooks, So.

FS#29 Clayton Powell-Lee, Fr.

CB# 7 Zamari Walton, Jr.

CB# 0 Myles Sims, Jr.

NB#16 K.J. Wallace, So. Special Teams

PK#88 Gavin Stewart, So.

KO#88 Gavin Stewart, So.

P#43 David Shanahan, So.

LS#46 Henry Freer, RFr.

H#43 David Shanahan, So.

KR# 3 Hassan Hall, Sr.

PR# 8 Nate McCollum. So.

Game Information

Location: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill, NC

Time: 5:30 PM


Radio: Tar Heels Sports Network (check local affiliates)


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