North Carolina was tied with Georgia Tech at halftime. So what?
The No. 5 Tar Heels love the second half, as they proved again Thursday night in a 16-13 victory."I wasn't frustrated we didn't score more often," said quarterback Oscar Davenport, who had a career night along with tailback Jonathan Linton. "I never felt like we were losing the game."
North Carolina (8-0, 5-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) went to the half tied 6-6, having squandered numerous chances in the first two quarters, as demonstrated by a 317-109 advantage in total yards. But the final two quarters always belong to the Tar Heels, and Georgia Tech wasn't about to break that trend.
Linton became the first player in North Carolina history to have 100 yards rushing and receiving in a game. Davenport, with a firm grasp on the quarterback job he once shared with Chris Keldorf, was 26-of-41 for 360 yards, setting career highs in all three categories.
While the Yellow Jackets (4-3, 3-2) made it close at the end, it was actually a lopsided game in nearly every category. North Carolina held a 521-186 advantage in yardage, limited Tech to 28 yards rushing and held the ball for 37:30.
The Tar Heels, who have outscored their opponents 158-43 in the second half, will take a perfect record into a Nov. 8 showdown against third-ranked Florida State. The winner will have the inside track to a spot in the bowl alliance's national championship game, the Orange Bowl.
"We cannot make the mistakes we made on offense or in the kicking game next week and have a chance to win that ballgame," coach Mack Brown said. "I'm sure the kids were looking beyond this one some."
The Tar Heels drove inside the Tech 40 on five of their six first-half possessions, but managed only two field goals. Two of the drives were halted by turnovers, and there also was a missed a field goal.
"It was frustrating for us to be in the red zone and walk away with only field goals," Linton said. "But we kept our cool."
The Yellow Jackets fell short again in their second straight game against a Top 5 opponent, though they turned in a more respectable performance than the 38-0 loss to Florida State.
"It would have been a (big win), but we're still searching for more athletes," coach George O'Leary said. "Like I told the players, I don't fault their effort."
North Carolina's only touchdown was Davenport's 30-yard pass to L.C. Stevens, which broke a 6-6 tie with 7:13 remaining in the third period. Linton helped clinch the victory in the fourth period, rambling 38 yards with a short pass and tacking on a 27-yard run to set up Josh McGee's 31-yard field goal that made it 16-6 with 10:22 remaining.
Linton ran 28 times for 138 yards and came out of the backfield to catch six passes for 137 yards.
North Carolina's other scoring came on a 44-yard field goal by Brian Schmitz in the first quarter and McGee's 20-yarder in the second.
Tech grabbed a 6-3 lead in the opening period on field goals of 42 and 45 yards by Dave Frakes. That continued a trend for the slow-starting Tar Heels, who have been outscored 31-16 in the first quarter this season.
There are five games Saturday between ranked teams: No. 14 Georgia against No. 6 Florida; No. 9 Ohio State at No. 21 Michigan State; No. 10 Washington State at No. 20 Arizona State; No. 18 Purdue at No. 15 Iowa; and No. 19 Oklahoma State at No. 25 Texas A&M.
Other games involving ranked teams are: Oklahoma at No. 1 Nebraska; No. 2 Penn State at Northwestern; North Carolina State at No. 3 Florida State; Minnesota at No. 4 Michigan; Southern California at No. 7 Washington; and South Carolina at No. 8 Tennessee.
Also, Mississippi State at No. 11 Auburn; No. 12 UCLA at Stanford; No. 13 Kansas State at Texas Tech; No. 16 LSU at Kentucky; No. 17 West Virginia at Syracuse; Miami, Ohio at No. 22 Toledo; Alabama-Birmingham at No. 23 Virginia Tech; and No. 24 Southern Mississippi at Cincinnati.
The game between Georgia and Florida - known as the "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" - has been pretty one-sided throughout the '90s.
The Gators (6-1, 4-1 Southeastern Conference) are coming off two of their worst offensive performances in five years - one a 28-21 loss at LSU - but they still have a defense that ranks 10th in the country.
Georgia has an identical record and is led by the efficiency of quarterback Mike Bobo.