SEPTEMBER 25, 2021
ATLANTA – Quarterback Jeff Sims ran for three touchdowns and threw for another, and Georgia Tech’s defense stymied No. 21/20 North Carolina’s potent offense, forcing three turnovers in a 45-22 win on Saturday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
After falling behind 7-0 early in the game, Georgia Tech (2-2, 1-1 ACC) scored the game’s next 27 points and cruised to its first victory over a top-25 team since Nov. 11, 2017, when it defeated Virginia Tech, 28-22.
Sims ran for 128 yards on 10 carries, and completed 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and a score. The Jackets were especially impressive in the run game, amassing 261 yards on the ground and averaging 6.1 yards per attempt, while holding the Tar Heels to just 63 rushing yards (1.8 per carry).
Limiting UNC to 63 yards on the ground was just the tip of the iceberg in Georgia Tech’s impressive defensive performance. In addition to forcing three turnovers (all fumbles by Tar Heel quarterback Sam Howell), the Yellow Jackets sacked Howell eight times, good for their most sacks in a game since 2007. The Jackets also had 13 tackles for loss, their most in a game since 2008 and their most in an ACC game since 2007.
After falling into the 7-0 hole less than five minutes into the contest, Tech caught fire on both sides of the ball in the second and third periods, en route to building its commanding 27-7 lead. The Jackets’ defense gave the offense short fields three times, recovering a pair of Howell fumbles and getting a fourth-down stop in UNC territory.
Howell’s second fumble — which was forced by Djimon Brooks and returned to the UNC 17 by Demetrius Knight II — proved to be the turning point in the game. Sims entered the contest to begin the ensuing series and two plays later, the Yellow Jackets took their first lead when he ran it in from 11 yards on a draw play, which gave Tech a 13-7 advantage that it took into halftime.
Sims then led a pair of touchdown drives in the third period to give Georgia Tech the 27-7 cushion. After Tech’s defense stopped North Carolina on downs at its own 39, Sims needed just three plays to extend the advantage to 20-7, capping the short drive with a 1-yard touchdown run less than five minutes into the second half. On the Jackets’ next possession, Sims engineered an 81-yard, eight-play march, capped by Jahmyr Gibbs scoring from four yards out.
The Tar Heels twice trimmed their deficit to 13 points, but got no closer, as Tech scored on each of its final five possessions of the game (four touchdowns and a field goal), a kneel-down to close the victory not withstanding.
In all, Tech outgained UNC, 394-369, marking the fourth-straight game to open the season that that Jackets have held an advantage in total yardage. The Jackets limited the Tar Heels to nearly 21 points and 185 yards below their season averages of 42.7 points and 553.3 yards per game coming in.
Howell, considered by many to be the likely No. 1 pick in next spring’s National Football League draft, finished with 306 yards on 25-of-39 passing to lead North Carolina (2-2, 1-2 ACC). Howell also ran for 55 yards, including a 23-yard touchdown run that opened the scoring.
- Georgia Tech moved to 2-2 (1-1 ACC) with the victory.
- No. 21/20 North Carolina fell to 2-2 (1-2 ACC) with the loss.
- Georgia Tech defeated a nationally ranked opponent for the first time since a 28-22 win over No. 17 Virginia Tech on Nov. 11, 2017.
- Georgia Tech moved to 31-22-3 all-time against North Carolina, including a 20-9 record at home.
- Georgia Tech moved to 1-1 all-time at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.
- Georgia Tech, which came into the game ranked 25th nationally in total defense, stymied North Carolina’s high-powered offense, which was ranked sixth nationally in total offense coming into the game. North Carolina were held nearly 21 points and 185 yards below its season averages coming into the game (UNC averaged 42.7 points and 553.3 yards per game through three contests).
- Georgia Tech recorded eight sacks on defense, its most in a game since it had eight at Duke on Nov. 10, 2007. Five of the Yellow Jackets’ eight sacks came in the first half.
- Georgia Tech recorded 13 tackles for loss on defense, its most in a game since it had 14 against Gardner-Webb on Oct. 11, 2008, and its most against an ACC opponent since it had 14 against Clemson on Sept. 29, 2007. Ten of the Yellow Jackets’ 13 tackles for loss came in the first half.
- Georgia Tech was plus-three in turnover margin (GT forced three takeaways and had zero giveaways). In their two victories this season, the Yellow Jackets are plus-five in turnover margin. Tech is even in turnover margin in its two losses.
- Georgia Tech Fr. QB Jeff Sims entered the game in the second quarter, his first game action since sustaining an injury in the season opener vs. Northern Illinois (Sept. 4). Sims completed 10-of-13 passes for 112 yards and 1 touchdown. He also ran for a career-high 128 yards on just 10 carries (12.8 avg.). His previous career-high was 108 vs. Duke (Nov. 28, 2020).
- Sims’ three touchdown runs were a career high (prev.: 1 – 6x as a true freshman last season).
- Georgia Tech Jr. LB Charlie Thomas recorded eight tackles, 2.5 sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss in the win, marking only the 11th time since 2000 that an ACC player had at least eight tackles/2.5 sacks/4.5 TFL in a game.
- Georgia Tech Fr. RB Jahmyr Gibbs scored his first touchdown of the season on a 4-yard run in the third quarter. He has scored eight touchdowns in 11 collegiate games.
- Georgia Tech r-Jr. DL Jordan Domineck’s forced fumble in the second quarter, which set up the Yellow Jackets’ second field goal of the game, was his sixth forced fumble since the beginning of last season (14 games).
- Georgia Tech Jr. LB Quez Jackson’s recovery of Domineck’s forced fumble was his second of the season and third of his career.
- Georgia Tech r-Sr. DL Djimon Brooks’ forced fumble in the second quarter, which set up the Yellow Jackets’ first touchdown of the game and gave them their first lead at 13-7, was the first of his career.
- Georgia Tech So. LB Demetrius Knight II’s recovery of Brooks’ forced fumble was his first of the season and second of his career.
- Georgia Tech Fr. DL Kyle Kennard set new career highs with two sacks (prev.: 1.5 at NC State on Dec. 5, 2020) and three tackles for loss (prev.: 1.5 at NC State on Dec. 5, 2020.
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