No. 5 North Carolina 16, Georgia Tech 13
ATLANTA (AP) _ It was a three-point victory for No. 5 North Carolina that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated.
Jonathan Linton became the first player in school history to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game and the Tar Heels remained in contention for a trip to the Orange Bowl with a 16-13 victory over Georgia Tech on Thursday night.
While the Yellow Jackets made it close at the end, it was actually a lopsided game in nearly every category. North Carolina held a 521-186 advantage in total yards, limited Tech to 28 yards rushing and held the ball for 37:30.
The Tar Heels drove inside the Tech 40 on five of their six first-half possessions, but managed only two field goals. Two of the drives were halted by turnovers and North Carolina also missed a field goal.
``It was frustrating for us to be in the red zone and walk away with only field goals,″ Linton said. ``We kept our cool. We got to the sidelines and regrouped.″
North Carolina (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference), which had won its previous games by at least 11 points, still takes a perfect record into a Nov. 8 showdown against third-ranked Florida State. The winner will have the inside track to a spot in the bowl alliance’s national championship game.
``We cannot make the mistakes we made on offense or in the kicking game next week and have a chance to win that ballgame,″ coach Mack Brown said. ``I’m sure the kids were looking beyond this one some, but everybody wanted to be 8-0 going in that game and we’re 8-0.″
The Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2) fell short again in their second straight game against a top 5 opponent, though they turned in a more respectable performance than the 38-0 loss to Florida State.
``It would have been a (big win), but we’re still searching for more athletes,″ coach George O’Leary said. ``Like I told the players, I don’t fault their effort.″
Oscar Davenport, with a firm grasp on the North Carolina quarterback job he once shared with Chris Keldorf, completed 26-of-41 for 360 yards, setting career highs in all three categories.
North Carolina’s only touchdown was Davenport’s 30-yard pass to L.C. Stevens, which broke a 6-6 tie with 7:13 remaining in the third period. Linton helped clinch the victory in the fourth period, rambling 38 yards with a short pass and tacking on a 27-yard run to set up Josh McGee’s 31-yard field goal with 10:22 remaining.
``I wasn’t frustrated we didn’t score more often,″ Davenport said. ``I never felt like we were losing the game.″
Linton ran 28 times for 138 yards and came out of the backfield to catch six passes for 137 yards.
``I think (Linton’s plays) were the key in the game,″ Brown said. ``That’s a great credit to Jon Linton and the offensive line.″
North Carolina’s other scoring came on a 44-yard field goal by Brian Schmitz in the first quarter and McGee’s 20-yarder in the second.
Tech grabbed a 6-3 lead in the opening period on field goals of 42 and 45 yards by Dave Frakes. That continued a trend for the slow-starting Tar Heels, who have been outscored 31-16 in the first quarter this season.
The Yellow Jackets failed to take advantage of three turnovers by North Carolina in the first half. Davenport had two passes intercepted, breaking a string of 154 straight passes without being picked off this season, and the quarterback also botched a handoff with Deon Dyer that resulted in a Tech fumble recovery.
``I was upset,″ Davenport said. ``I wanted to go through the season with no interceptions, but realistically that’s a high goal.″
Tech had a prime scoring chance late in the half when a pass was tipped at the line and intercepted by linebacker Keith Brooking at the Tar Heels 24. But Charles Wilder was stopped about six inches short of a first down when the Yellow Jackets went for it on fourth-and-1 at the 15.
``I didn’t think kicking field goals was going to win this game,″ O’Leary said. ``I thought the running back should have made that first down. He tries to jump the pile and ends up short.″
The go-ahead touchdown came at the end of an 11-play, 69-yard drive on North Carolina’s first possession of the second half. The Tar Heels converted a third-and-9 early on to keep the drive going and then Davenport came through on third-and-15 from the 30, hooking up with Stevens in the left corner of the end zone when the receiver got behind cornerback Jerry Caldwell.
Tech finally reached the end zone for the first time in more than seven quarters with just 1:10 remaining on Joe Hamilton’s 4-yard pass to Charlie Rogers. But North Carolina recovered the onside kick to snuff out the Yellow Jackets’ comeback.
For the second game in a row, punter Rodney Williams was one of Tech’s most effective weapons. He averaged 49.2 yards on six punts.