CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Against a North Carolina defense every bit as good as its No. 2 national ranking Saturday, Georgia Tech found little room to run and no way to pass.
Quarterback Joe Hamilton was intercepted three times by cornerback Dre Bly, and tailback C.J. Williams managed only 27 yards on 19 carries. Carolina didn't muster much offense, either, but a 5-0 advantage in turnovers helped the 11th-ranked Tar Heels take a 16-0 victory before 50,000 fans at Kenan Stadium.
North Carolina (3-0 overall, 2-0 ACC) likely will move into the AP top 10 for the first time since 1983 - just in time for next Saturday's trip to No. 3 Florida State. Not since 1981 has an ACC game matched teams ranked in the top 10.
"They can give Florida State a game," Williams asserted. "FSU doesn't look like the old Florida State to me. They don't look as good as they have in the past. Hopefully, this is another year when they'll get a loss in the ACC."
Said Tech coach George O'Leary, whose team fell to 2-1 overall and in the league: "Carolina's defense is very good. Their cover people do a great job, and, up front, they've got height and range and they can run. Their front seven really hurt us. It wasn't one guy; it was their front seven collectively."
Tech, which had 536 yards of offense a week earlier against Wake Forest, managed only 159 yards rushing (after gaining 281 in last year's victory over the Tar Heels) and 113 passing. Hamilton didn't complete his first pass until the 2:10 mark of the third quarter, and he finished with four completions in 14 attempts for 62 yards. Brandon Shaw came on late and completed three of six passes for 51 yards.
Hamilton, who was sacked four times, never had a chance against the front four of Vonnie Holliday, Rick Terry, Greg Ellis and Rick Terry. Hamilton was swarmed whenever he dropped back to pass and hunted relentlessly when he rolled out. That he finished with 42 yards rushing is a tribute to his athletic ability.
"I told him I wanted him to loosen up a little bit," O'Leary said. "But he was running for his life."
For Carolina, Leon Johnson ran for 100 yards on 23 carries, and Chris Keldorf, a 6-5, 250-pound junior college transfer, completed 15 of 29 passes for 134 yards and two touchdowns.
Carolina finished with only 246 yards, though, and sputtered against a Tech defense that played well in every aspect except taking the ball away.
The Tar Heels' only drive longer than 40 yards came on their opening possession, when they moved 59 yards and scored on a 23-yard Josh McGee field goal.
"Luckily, our defense played played above and beyond the call of duty," said Keldorf, who was sacked three times. "If I had to grade myself, I wouldn't want to bring the grade home to my parents."
Carolina's touchdowns came on drives of 6 and 37 yards. The first was setup by Tech's first turnover - a third and 22 pass by Hamilton that was intercepted in the left flat by Bly and returned 44 yards to the 6.
"I tried to make a play while scrambling with a rush in my face," Hamilton said. "I tried to throw it across my body to my receiver, and I made a bad read and a bad throw. If I had it all over to do, I wouldn't make that same throw."
On third and goal from the 5, Keldorf lobbed a pass into the end zone, and tight end Freddie Jones leaped in front of linebacker Jimmy Clements for the catch. McGee missed the extra point, but the Tar Heels led 9-0.
Then, with 1:04 left in the half, Carolina got the ball at the Tech 37 after forcing the Jackets to punt from their 11. Keldorf beat a blitz with an easy 24-yard TD pass to Na Brown. The 16-0 advantage held.
"The whole thing was a learning experience for me," said Hamilton, a redshirt freshman who made his first start against a ranked team. "It's different playing against a team of this caliber, but I don't think our offense came ready to play the way we needed to play. They wanted it more than we did. On another night, it could be the other way around."
Tech lost a key player, fullback Charles Wiley, to a sprained knee in the second quarter on Bly's interception return. Receiver Jon Muyres didn't play because of a pulled hamstring.