CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — They score 118 points all the time in the Atlantic Coast Conference – on the basketball courts, not on the football fields.
Georgia Tech and North Carolina blew up the scoreboard Saturday in the highest scoring game in ACC history. Even after the Yellow Jackets’ wild 68-50 victory, Paul Johnson wanted more – and he was the winning coach.
“Too bad we missed that 2-point conversion,” Johnson quipped.
Eleven players scored touchdowns in this one.
Georgia Tech’s Robert Godhigh rushed for two touchdowns and caught a third. Jamal Golden returned a kickoff 100 yards for a score, and backup quarterback Vad Lee rushed for 112 yards and two touchdowns and threw for a third.
They combined to help the Yellow Jackets (5-5, 4-3) continue their push toward bowl eligibility and remain alive in the messy Coastal Division race.
“We were just out there scoring,” running back Orwin Smith said. “It was touchdown for touchdown. It was a shootout, basically. After that first half, we basically knew that it was going to be a shootout.”
Bryn Renner threw two touchdown passes while Gio Bernard and A.J. Blue each scored two touchdowns for North Carolina (6-4, 3-3), which had never given up this many points at home and hadn’t allowed this many anywhere since Louisville hung 69 on them in 2005.
“If I would have saw that coming,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said, “I probably wouldn’t have shown up today.”
For a game dominated by the offenses, things wound up swinging on an odd play by North Carolina’s special teams.
North Carolina lined up for just its second punt of the day on a fourth-and-10 at its own 25. Punter Tommy Hibbard took off with the ball, and was stopped eight yards shy of the sticks at the 27.
On the next snap, God-high took a pitch around the left end for the touchdown that put the Yellow Jackets up 51-36. His 32-yard touchdown catch on Georgia Tech’s next possession made it 58-36.
The Tar Heels pulled to 58-50 on Renner’s 11-yard touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis and Tim Scott’s 34-yard interception return on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Smith followed that with a 22-yard touchdown run to put the Yellow Jackets up 65-50, and Chris Tanner kicked a 34-yard field goal to complete the scoring with 3:40 left.
Smith finished with 83 yards rushing and 39 yards receiving. Starting quarterback Tevin Washington tied former teammate Joshua Nesbitt’s ACC record for quarterbacks with his 35th career rushing touchdown, a 25-yarder on his team’s opening series.
Lee, a native of nearby Durham, N.C., took over on Georgia Tech’s third offensive series, immediately led three straight scoring drives and played the rest of the way. He finished 6 of 10 for 169 yards passing.
“I figured that coach would keep me in, so I just kept playing and trying to make plays and get first downs and get the ball in the end zone,” Lee said.
David Sims added an 11-yard touchdown run for the Yellow Jackets, one of four Coastal Division teams — along with North Carolina, Miami and Duke — with three league losses.
Romar Morris had a 30-yard touchdown run for the Tar Heels, and Renner finished 24 of 35 for 350 yards with an interception.
The second half started with a bang: two touchdowns — one by each team — in a 34-second span.
Golden put the Yellow Jackets up 34-29 when he returned the opening kickoff of the second half for a touchdown. Lee was off on the 2-point conversion pass that Johnson would later regret.
Bernard then took a short pass from Renner and broke two tackles while turning it into his longest career reception, a 78-yard score that briefly gave the Tar Heels a 36-34 lead.
Godhigh followed that with a 4-yard TD that put Georgia Tech ahead to stay. Tanner kicked a 35-yard field goal to make it 44-36.
Bernard, the ACC’s leading rusher, became the first Tar Heel rusher since Natrone Means to crack 1,000 yards in consecutive seasons. He scored on an early 4-yard run but finished with just 78 yards rushing.
“It’s hard to see it from the sideline,” Bernard said. “I know those (defensive) guys were trying. I know they weren’t messing around. We were prepared. They just outplayed us.”