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Injuries Mount as UNC Travels to Georgia Tech

Sharon Thorsland
September 29, 2017 - 7:48 am

So the season is only four games old but North Carolina is already in dire straights. A 27-17 loss to Duke last week dropped the Tar Heels to 1-3 on the year, and they also dropped three more players. Receivers Austin Proehl and Rontavious Graves and defensive tackle Tyler Powell all went down with injuries, leaving the Heels' already struggling team even thinner.

And now they have to go to Georgia Tech to take on the Yellow Jackets (2-1, 1-0 ACC) and their famed triple option.

As always, you can hear the game on WBT, with kick-off set for noon.

It's incredibly difficult to prepare for Tech's high speed option attack, and it's even better than usual this year. The Jackets lead the nation in rushing yards at 394 per game, bad news for a UNC defense that has been dismal against the run for years now.

First year starting quarterback TaQuon Marshall is a star in the making – in his first game he scored five touchdowns against Tennessee (the Jackets barely lost 42-41).

Marshall has rushed for 386 yards and eight touchdowns, and thrown for three more with no interceptions. He shares the load with sophomore KirVonte Benson, who moved into the number one running back role after All-ACC back Dedrick Mills was dismissed from the team before the season. Benson has rushed for 346 yards and three touchdowns. He teams with Qua Searcy, Jerry Howard and Nathan Cottrell, who's averaging a whopping 9.6 yards per carry.

All of that running translates into ball control, with the Jackets ranking 4th in the nation in time of possession.

The Yellow Jackets really don't even bother throwing the ball – top receiver Ricky Jeune only has six receptions. But he's a big play threat, averaging over 22 yards a catch with two touchdowns.

One stat of note – the Yellow Jackets are having a hard time holding on to the football – in their three games, they've fumbled 11 times, losing six of them. 

On the other side of the ball, the Yellow Jackets feature a veteran defense that is excellent against the run, they rank 21st in the nation allowing just 100 yards per game.

They're also really good on third down, with opponents converting just 26 percent, that's 13th in the country. Two names to keep an eye on - senior defensive end Antonio Simmons, he has two sacks, and linebacker Brant Mitchell, who leads the team in tackles.

UNC has won three straight in this series, including last year’s meeting in Chapel Hill, when the Tar Heels routed Tech by 28 points.

But they're struggling this season, and how have 13 players out for the year, with UNC announcing on Thursday that Proehl, Groves, Powell and tight end Carl Tucker are all lost for the season.

The defense is allowing 33 points a game and did I mention the Heels have lost 7 of their last 8 match-ups at Bobby Dodd Stadium? So even I admit that this one will be difficult to win – but I'm keeping the faith and calling for the upset! Go Heels! ​

 

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