CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Georgia Tech's offense continued to limp toward the season's end Saturday, and it had nothing to do with quarterback Reggie Ball's nagging leg injury.
Bothered by slow starts over the past four games, the Yellow Jackets never found a pace against North Carolina. They finished with 221 yards, the fewest by a winning Georgia Tech team since 1996.
"I would say a lot of (our struggles) were on us," Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said. "We were not able to generate any kind of consistency at all."
Ball had his worst game, yardage-wise, since the fourth game of the 2004 season against Miami. He finished with 78 yards and completed just 10 of 24 passes.
Star wide receiver Calvin Johnson caught just three balls - two of those for a yard or less.
"We didn't make enough plays," said tailback Tashard Choice, the lone offensive bright spot with 119 yards and a touchdown. "Little things bothered us. like a missed cut or pass where the timing was off. The whole offense just couldn't sustain drives."
Georgia Tech needed late drives to post its previous three victories. The Yellow Jackets came from behind in the fourth quarter to defeat Maryland, Miami and N.C. State.
THAT'S RARE: Georgia Tech's offense has used big plays to strike quickly for touchdowns all season. The Jackets' lone scoring drive against North Carolina, however, was by far the longest of 2006, not to mention recent history.
The Yellow Jackets ran 10 minutes, 30 seconds off the clock with the 20-play, 83-yard drive. Their next longest this season was a 16-play march that covered 5:51. Of the Jackets' 30 touchdown drives this season, 20 of them lasted less than three minutes.
"That was big," Gailey said of Saturday's long drive. "I thought at the time it would wear them down, but I think it took as much out of us as it did out of them."
Change in the weather: The unseasonably warm November weather in Chapel Hill, N.C., took its toll on the Yellow Jackets. Tackle Joe Anoai said the 80-degree temperatures were a sharp contract to the near-freezing conditions in the area last week, when Georgia Tech played N.C. State in Raleigh, N.C.
"We were sweating out there," Anoai said. "And not just the heat, but North Carolina made us sweat too."
Gailey said the weather also had something to do with the team's subdued championship celebration afterwards.
"I think we're drained," Gailey said. "It was a tough, physical game and it was hot. I think we're physically and emotionally drained."
flashback: Georgia Tech fans with a sense of history had to suffer flashbacks to the Yellow Jackets' 1990 trip to Kenan Stadium as the team struggled Saturday.
Georgia Tech tied North Carolina - which didn't win a game all season - 13-13 on Oct. 20, 1990. The tie was the only blemish on the Yellow Jackets' record that season and likely cost them an outright national title. They finished with an 11-0-1 mark and were named champs in the coaches poll while the Associated Press pollsters crowned Colorado.
Saturday's close call won't cost the Jackets a championship. They won the Coastal Division title with the victory and earned a spot in the Dec. 2 ACC Championship game.
DUKE'S NEXT: The Yellow Jackets face their third opponent from North Carolina's Triangle area in three weeks next Saturday when they play host to Duke. Kickoff is 1:30 at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
The Blue Devils were winless at 0-9 going into Saturday night's game against Boston College in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Reach Adam Van Brimmer at 404-589-8424 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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