CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- There were times Saturday at Kenan Stadium when the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets seemed destined to repeat their failures against North Carolina State and Florida State, what with another quarterback shredding their secondary and their recent road karma.
This time, though, the Jackets had an answer. Two, actually.
Sophomore running back Joe Burns tied a school record by scoring four touchdowns, and Tech converted two North Carolina gaffes in the punting game into two more touchdowns as the Jackets downed the Tar Heels 42-28 before 52,000.
It was the first conference win for Tech (3-2 overall, 1-2 ACC), which had gone 1-4 in its past five road games. It also negated a career day by Carolina quarterback Ronald Curry, who throttled the Tech defense for 388 passing yards and added a 46-yard touchdown run.
Burns, who topped the 100-yard mark for the second straight week and finished with 123, took it on himself to ensure that the Research Triangle didn't turn into the Jackets' Bermuda Triangle, scoring what proved to be the winning touchdown on fourth-and-goal from inside the Heels' 1-yard line with 5:25 left.
That gave Tech a 35-28 lead that seemed anything but safe the way Curry was throwing the ball. He had connected for four passing plays that each went for 50 yards or more, convincing Tech coach George O'Leary to go for it on fourth down.
"The way the ball was flying through the air, I didn't think three points would be enough," said O'Leary.
So Burns, who is also emerging as the heart of the Tech team, got the call and got the job done.
"If I can't make that, I don't deserve to be a college running back," said Burns, who etched his name in the Tech record book along with C.J. Williams, Robert Lavette, George Maloof and Buck Martin, who each scored four touchdowns in a game.
While Curry was throwing the ball deep seemingly at will, he also was placed under constant pressure. The Jackets sacked him five times for 57 yards, including twice on the Tar Heels' final offensive series after Carolina gained a first down at the Tech 1-yard line.
"We just couldn't get it done when we needed to," said Curry. "I feel like we could have played a better game."
The Jackets, who were victimized by poor fortune in their 30-23 overtime loss last week at North Carolina State, saw the breaks even out Saturday. They blocked a punt and got the ball on downs after Carolina punter John Lafferty fumbled a snap, resulting in two third-quarter touchdowns.
"The coaches were telling us all week we would have a good chance to block one," said freshman Tony Hollings, who pounced on the ball in the end zone after Chris Young broke through and swatted it off the foot of Blake Ferguson, who replaced Lafferty on the next series. "I saw Chris break in there, and then the ball rolled in front of me and nobody else was around."
North Carolina (3-2, 1-2) outgained Georgia Tech by more than 100 yards (477 to 372) but lost its third straight to the Jackets. The Tar Heels, denied a 4-1 start, had a chance to go up 14-0 early in the second quarter, but on an apparent touchdown pass from Curry to tight end Alge Crumpler, they were flagged for having an ineligible receiver down field. On the next play, defensive end Greg Gathers intercepted Curry's throw at the 5-yard line.
"It was a very frustrating loss for us," said North Carolina coach Carl Torbush. "From that point on, I thought everything went downhill. The interception in the end zone and their drive after that to make it 7-7, from that point I thought we were very inconsistent."
Young also intercepted a pass to thwart another UNC scoring threat.
"We played with a lot of heart and character today," said Burns. "We knew we had to win, and we played to win."