It simply gave Tevin Washington and the triple-option offense another opportunity to shine.
Washington threw a long touchdown pass and ran for two scores, including a 5-yarder with about 5½ minutes remaining that gave No. 25 Georgia Tech a 35-28 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
The Yellow Jackets improved to 4-0 for the first time since 1990, the season they shared the national title with Colorado.
“After the first few games, we thought we would try and make this more exciting,” joked coach Paul Johnson, whose team won its first three games by an average of more than 37 points. “I was proud of our guys and especially the way we came back in the fourth quarter.”
The Tar Heels (3-1, 1-1 ACC) fought back from a 28-14 deficit going to the final period, tying the game on Giovani Bernard’s 55-yard run with 7:22 left.
Georgia Tech needed only four plays to respond in its conference opener.
“It was just another chance to show what the triple-option is all about,” center Jay Finch said.
Running back Roddy Jones reached out to take a pitch from Washington and went 48 yards down the sideline to the North Carolina 9. Two snaps later, Washington carried it in for the winning score with 5:20 left.
Stephen Hill had a huge game for Georgia Tech with six receptions for 151 yards, including a 59-yard touchdown. Bernard rushed for 155 yards and two TDs for North Carolina.
The Yellow Jackets came in with the nation’s highest-scoring offense (59.3 points a game) and leading in several other offensive categories. While not nearly as dominating as they were in the first three games, they still had another big day offensively, piling up 312 yards on the ground and 496 yards in all.
“I don’t get hung up on yards and all that,” Johnson said. “I just want to score more than they do.”
Washington had a fumble and an interception, but he mostly ran the offense just as it’s drawn up. He completed 10 of 14 passes for 184 yards.
Hill should have had another score, dropping a sure TD pass late in the game after he again broke free behind the secondary.
Washington also ran 25 times for 74 yards, taking quite a pounding from the Tar Heels.
“I knew I was going to have to make some plays in the running game,” he said. “Just making sure I didn’t try to do too much and just do my job.”
North Carolina’s Bryn Renner completed 17 of 25 for 204 yards, but a couple of interceptions plagued the sophomore in his first start outside of Chapel Hill.
“This is my first road game, but I can’t use that as an excuse,” he said. “We didn’t make enough plays to win. That’s all it boils down to.”