Sports

UNC loses close game to Georgia Tech after late interception. Here’s what happened

North Carolina Malik Carney (53) returns a Georgia Tech fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C.
North Carolina Malik Carney (53) returns a Georgia Tech fumble 20 yards for a touchdown in the first quarter on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. rwillett@newsobserver.com

North Carolina had the ball in the fourth quarter with a chance to take the lead and possibly win the game.

Sound familiar?

Well, the result was a familiar one too.

But the Tar Heels turned the ball over at the 41 yard line late in the game, and Georgia Tech took advantage. The Yellow Jackets scored on a nine-play 41-yard touchdown drive to go up 35-28. UNC attempted to tie the game on the next drive but came up short, and fell to Georgia Tech 38-28.

UNC (1-7) has now lost five consecutive games and continues to sink further in the ACC Coastal Division standings.

The turnover came via junior quarterback Nathan Elliott. With a chance to win, Elliott threw a critical interception in UNC territory, setting up Georgia Tech’s drive. It was his second interception of the game.

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North Carolina safety Allen Artis (4) takes a seat on the bench following the final Georgia Tech touchdown to secure the Yellowjackets’ 38-28 victory on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

UNC had one more chance to tie the game with about three minutes left, but Elliott threw his third interception on the first play of the next drive. Elliott finished the game 14-26 for 128 yards and three interceptions.

Prior to the second interception, the Tar Heels had made an impressive comeback after falling behind by 18 in the third quarter. Freshman quarterback Jace Ruder, who replaced Elliott in the second quarter, threw a nine-yard touchdown strike to junior tight end Carl Tucker to bring the score to 28-17.

But two plays earlier Ruder was hit hard after a run play. After his touchdown pass, he went into the locker room and returned in street clothes with his left (non-throwing) arm in a sling.

Elliott played the rest of the game.

Georgia Tech got out to a fast start. Its option offense fooled the Tar Heels, particularly through the first three quarters. The Yellow Jackets ran for 461 yards, nearly 100 more than its season average.

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North Carolina’s Patrice Rene (5) works to stop Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall (16) on a four yard gain for a first down in the first quarter on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

It raced out to a 28-10 lead. The Tar Heels’ lone touchdown at that point was a 20-yard fumble recovery by senior defensive end Malik Carney. Carney, who is back full time after serving a four-game suspension, also caused the fumble.

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North Carolina’s Jason Strowbridge (55) celebrates with teammates after a defensive stop of Georgia Tech’s TaQuon Marshall (16) for a loss of three yards in the first quarter on Saturday, November 3, 2018 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, N.C. Robert Willett rwillett@newsobserver.com

When UNC put Ruder in, it started to move. Before he went out, he was 4-5, for 80 yards and the touchdown. The Tar Heels missed his ability to throw down field when he exited the game.

Senior linebacker Cole Holcomb had a career-high 22 tackles and three forced fumbles. But even his performance was not enough.

Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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