ATLANTA – No. 18 Georgia overcame a 10-point second-half deficit to run past No. 22 North Carolina, 33-24, in front of a hostile crowd at the Georgia Dome on Saturday.
Georgia ran at will on UNC. Nick Chubb ran for 222 yards and two touchdowns on 32 carries and Brian Herrien and Brendan Douglas combined for 82 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Gene Chizik prepped his team exclusively for UGA’s 21/22 personnel packages, which feature two running backs and either one or two tight ends, but the Tar Heels’ defensive line is not yet equipped to handle an elite rushing attack, especially with key pieces out (defensive end Dajaun Drennon) or limited (Jalen Dalton) due to injury.
Chubb ran for 118 yards and a touchdown on 20 carries before halftime, and the Bulldogs’ running backs averaged 5.5 yards per carry in the first half. UNC’s freshmen defensive linemen – redshirts Aaron Crawford and Jason Strowbridge, and true frosh Tomon Fox – were bullied around on Georgia’s first scoring drive in the first quarter. Georgia rushed eight times for 48 yards, including Chubb’s two-yard score, on that series.
UNC’s Player of the Game
UNC exited the halftime locker room trailing 14-10 without a taste of the lead. T.J. Logan only needed 14 seconds to flip the game’s momentum, returning the opening kickoff 95 yards for a touchdown to give the Tar Heels a 17-14 lead. The senior running back and return man, who has often been overshadowed by tailback Elijah Hood and punt returner Ryan Switzer, had already sparked the offense with back-to-back runs of 35- and 16-yards to set up UNC’s first score of the game. Logan further cemented his player-of-the-game status with a speed burst down the right sideline and a dive at the pylon to push the Tar Heels’ lead to 24-14 on the next possession. His kickoff return for touchdown was his third career special teams score and his first since a 78-yard return for touchdown against Cincinnati in the 2013 Belk Bowl. Logan finished the game with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on five carries and 170 return yards and a touchdown on five attempts.
The best-kept secret during UNC’s training camp was the development of Aussie rules football transplant Tom Sheldon, who won the punting job and proved his worth against the Bulldogs. The lefty averaged 42.0 yards per kick on six attempts and pinned two inside the 20. What stands out about Sheldon’s punts are their launch angle and corresponding loft, which allowed UNC’s punt cover team plenty of time to race down field and prevent any type of return game.
Stat of Note
After a relatively clean season in 2015 with regards to penalties, UNC was flagged 13 times for 101 yards against the Bulldogs. Georgia picked on freshman cornerback Patrice Rene in the third quarter, drawing two pass interference calls down the left sideline to move inside the scoring zone and start its comeback.
UNC has now lost nine straight season openers to Power 5 conference opponents. For the second year in a row, the Tar Heels appeared to be the better team for stretches of time but were unable to make the necessary plays down the stretch to secure a victory. The loss to South Carolina in the season opener last season only served to rally the Tar Heels, who reeled off 11 straight victories to win the ACC Coastal Division. One game at a time, though, as a trip to Illinois under the lights comes next Saturday.