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UNC football set to face a Georgia Tech offense that is ‘hard to prepare’ for

UNC’s Fedora: ‘We’re still so close, but so far away’

North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks with reporters at his weekly press conference following the Tar Heels' overtime loss to Syracuse.
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North Carolina football coach Larry Fedora talks with reporters at his weekly press conference following the Tar Heels' overtime loss to Syracuse.

North Carolina defensive coordinator John Papuchis said the hardest thing about facing Georgia Tech’s option offense is having to prepare for it.

“It’s hard to prepare your team to play with the speed that the game is going to be, used on scout guys,” Papuchis said. “The triple option is unfamiliar to everybody within our program.”

The first time UNC coach Larry Fedora faced Georgia Tech’s option offense was in 2012, when the Yellow Jackets beat the Tar Heels 68-50.

On Saturday, UNC will face a Georgia Tech team that is coming off its biggest win of the season, a 49-28 drubbing of Virginia Tech. In that Oct. 25 game, the Yellow Jackets threw one pass, which was incomplete.

Georgia Tech’s offense is unique. It is designed to spread out the defense and create running lanes for the quarterbacks and running backs. A staple in coach Paul Johnson’s playbook is his triple option play.

The triple option uses three players who can run, leaving defenses to decide which player to guard.

Few teams run the triple option as much as Georgia Tech.

Former college football coach Fisher DeBerry, who was successful running an option offense at Air Force, said Georgia Tech has been successful because it has good quarterbacks.

“It all starts with the quarterback and his poise and his ability to understand defensive football and his ability to make decisions on the run,” DeBerry said. “And he’s got to be a good runner.”

Fedora addresses the media following the Tar Heels' loss to Virginia

DeBerry was head coach at Air Force from 1984 to 2006. Fedora coached under DeBerry from 1997 to 1998. At Air Force DeBerry won three Western Athletic Conference titles, including one in 1998.

“The triple option is something that the players don’t see every day,” DeBerry said. “Coaches know how to defend it, but coaches don’t play the game. It’s tough to practice against because it’s an offense that not many people run. “

UNC and Georgia Tech have played six times since Fedora was hired at UNC in 2012, and his teams are 3-3 against Johnson’s Yellow Jackets.

The Tar Heels (1-6, 1-4 ACC) are looking to snap a four-game losing streak, one that started with a 47-10 loss to Miami on Sept. 27. Since then, UNC lost its next three games by a total of 16 points.

The Tar Heels at times have struggled to stop the run.

Georgia Tech (4-4, 2-3) leads the country with 366.5 rushing yards per game and 37 rushing touchdowns. The next closest team is Army, which averages 314 rushing yards per game.

“Our defense is going to have to do a great job,” Fedora said. “In a game like this, it’s all about the possessions and making sure you’re efficient when you have the ball and trying to steal a possession or two somewhere on the defensive side.”

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Georgia Tech at UNC

When: 12:15 p.m., Saturday

Where: Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

TV: NBC

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Alexander, 919-829-4822; @jonmalexander
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