Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee is in his first season as a full-time starter and has guided the Yellow Jackets to a 2-0 start. (Reuters)
ATLANTA — North Carolina travels to Georgia Tech today, and both teams will be hard-pressed to duplicate last season’s offensive fireworks.
The Yellow Jackets outlasted the Tar Heels 68-50 in the highest-scoring game in ACC history last November in Chapel Hill when the two teams combining for 1,085 yards of total offense and 16 touchdowns.
Georgia Tech scored 38 points in winning its ACC opener at Duke last week, while the Tar Heels scored 40 points against Middle Tennessee two Saturdays ago.
Georgia Tech is known for churning out rushing yards in its triple-option offense, ranking third in the nation at 356 per contests through two games, but sophomore quarterback Vad Lee fired four touchdown passes in the victory over Duke. North Carolina senior quarterback Bryn Renner topped 300 yards passing against Middle Tennessee for the fifth time in his past six games. The Tar Heels have scored 40 or more points seven times in head coach Larry Fedora’s 14 games at the helm.
Fedora seeks improvement from a defense that got worn down in a season-opening loss at sixth-ranked South Carolina, but the Tar Heels never were threatened last week in building a 23-0 lead. Sophomore tailback Romar Morris scored his first two touchdowns of the season last week, but North Carolina has rushed for just 233 yards in two games. Renner is two touchdown passes away from tying T.J. Yates for second most in school history.
Lee, named the ACC offensive back of the week, is responsible for eight of the Yellow Jackets’ 15 touchdowns and has looked polished in his first season as the full-time starter. Junior receiver DeAndre Smelter caught two touchdown passes last week — his first two collegiate receptions — and senior running back Robert Godhigh picked up first downs on six different occasions against the Blue Devils. The Yellow Jackets have allowed 14 points in two games, holding opponents to 253.5 yards per contest.
North Carolina will also get its first look at Tech’s new diamond formation on offense.
Plucked from game video of the San Francisco 49ers, the formation aligns Lee in the shotgun, with the two A-backs closely flanking him and the B-back directly behind him. The Jackets have worked on it since spring practice and sprung it on Duke on Saturday to great effect. Among the plays run out of it were a 44-yard read-option run by A-back Robert Godhigh, a 13-yard touchdown pass from Lee to Godhigh and a number of sweeps that outflanked the Blue Devils and went for big gains.
“It adds a different wrinkle, and it has different angles and creates different running lanes,” B-back David Sims said. “It’s something we want to try to exploit.”
Coach Paul Johnson introduced the formation in the spring, looking for a way to take advantage of Lee’s dual-threat skills and retain the ability to run. The entire offense can be run out of the diamond formation, Johnson said.
In Tech’s standard formation, the quarterback is under center with the B-back about 3 yards behind him. The A-backs are lined up just outside the offensive tackles. Out of the diamond, plays run up the middle don’t develop as quickly, but the offensive line doesn’t have to create as much movement off the line of scrimmage.
“It gives you a little better (blocking) angles sometimes, especially if you’re trying to get linebackers,” Johnson said. “You’ve got a little better run and go at them coming downhill. It also doesn’t hit as fast, so there’s tradeoffs both ways.”