CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina could hardly have chosen a more difficult opponent to play with 12 players held out in connection with an NCAA investigation.
Georgia Tech's punishing triple-option attack churned out 372 rushing yards and held the ball for 35 minutes, wearing down the Tar Heels' depleted defense in a 30-24 defeat Saturday at Kenan Stadium.
"Depth becomes a major factor in a game like this," coach Butch Davis said.
Depth is something North Carolina doesn't have on defense. Ten of the players held out of the game play defense, and six - Marvin Austin, Robert Quinn, Kendric Burney, Deunta Williams, DaNorris Searcy and Charles Brown - were defensive starters.
After the Sept. 4, season-opening loss to LSU, Davis moved reserve offensive guard Greg Elleby to defensive tackle, but one player wasn't nearly enough to make up for the loss of 10.
Before the game, North Carolina athletic director Dick Baddour said he didn't have a timetable for decisions on any of the players' possible returns in the joint NCAA and school review of possible improprieties with sports agents and potential academic misconduct.
In addition to the six defensive starters, Greg Little, Ryan Houston, Jonathan Smith, Brian Gupton, Michael McAdoo and Linwan Euwell were held out of the game.
"We're working as hard as we can on every one of them," Baddour said, "and we'll continue working as hard as we can."
The lone player cleared during the two weeks between the LSU and Georgia Tech games, running back Shaun Draughn, carried six times for 22 yards and caught two passes for 13 yards.
Draughn played behind Johnny White, who carried 17 times for a career-high 113 yards. Davis said it was good to have two running backs available, and complimented White.
"Johnny proved today that he is a tough, tough kid," Davis said. "He ran with an awful lot of heart and a lot of toughness, and you love his passion."
Bunting returns: Standing on the radio deck below the press box, former North Carolina coach John Bunting pointed at the construction zone where the Kenan Fieldhouse used to be.
North Carolina is building the $70 million "Student-Athlete Center for Excellence" in that spot, where Bunting said he had told administrators as early as 2001 that the fieldhouse - built in 1927 - should be torn down.
"I'm just amazed at what they've gotten done [improving facilities], and it's about time they tore down 'The Alamo,' " Bunting said.
Bunting was fired in 2006 after going 27-45 over six seasons as the Tar Heels head coach. He now lives just north of Wilmington on the intercoastal waterway and was working Saturday's game as a color analyst for the ISP Radio Network.
He said he doesn't know anything about and couldn't comment on the NCAA investigation of the Tar Heels. But as Bunting exchanged greetings with old friends, he sounded happy to be back.
He said he and wife Dawn met with friends and former players during an outing Thursday night after coming to town for the game and had a ball.
"That was very pleasurable for me and Dawn, to be welcomed that way," he said.
Boyd blanked: New Georgia Tech coordinator Al Groh's defense struggled at times against the Tar Heels, but succeeded in completely blanking wide receiver Jheranie Boyd.
Against LSU, Boyd caught six passes for 222 yards. He didn't have a reception against Georgia Tech, and carried once on an end-around for a 2-yard loss.
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