UNC Beat: I Think GT Just Scored Again

Leave it to two Atlantic Coast Conference schools to have a final score of 68-50 in a football game.

Georgia Tech racked up 68 points against North Carolina last weekend at Kenan Stadium in the highest-scoring game in ACC history. Both teams were scoring at a frenetic pace, but the Yellow Jackets were quite literally scoring at will. Rambling Wreck, indeed. Let us further consider the number 68:

  • North Carolina’s 50 points was only the third highest scoring production of the season, but Georgia Tech’s 68 bettered 66 and 62 point games against Idaho and Elon, respectively.
  • None of North Carolina’s basketball opponents this season (Shaw in exhibition, Gardner-Webb and Florida Atlantic on the men’s side; Carson-Newman and Wingate exhibitions, Davidson, and Duquesne for the women) have scored 68 points.
  • Five times last season, the North Carolina men’s basketball team scored fewer than 68 points. This includes their last game of the season, an 80-67 loss to Kansas in the Elite Eight. The others? Wins against Virginia and Wisconsin (make your own slow pace jokes), a 90-57 loss at Tallahassee to Florida State, and the Carrier Classic game against Michigan State (67-55 UNC).
  • Georgia Tech’s hoopsters last season? They failed to break 68 on 20 occasions last season during their 31-game slate.
  • The year 68, like the year 2012, was a leap year. Coincidence? I THINK NOT. (It totally is).
  • Three Tar Heel golfers have shot a 68 during a round this season: Michael McGowan (Tar Heel Intercollegiate, UNC Finley Golf Course), Bailey Patrick (Rod Myers Invitational, Duke University Golf Course), and Patrick Barrett (Wolfpack Intercollegiate, Ronnie Poole Golf Course).
  • According to Wikipedia, 68 is a “Happy number.” I wasn’t overly pleased with its presence Saturday, but I investigated this Happy number business further, and my mind immediately exploded. Not with happiness, though, just confusion.
  • The Tar Heels softball team hit 68 doubles in 2012, while allowing just 48 doubles. They also hit 67 home runs, which was one home run away from making this just a bit weirder.
  • Of the five jerseys retired by North Carolina football, only one is a number higher than 68, George Barclay’s 99. Ken Huff wore #68 at North Carolina before being drafted third overall in the 1975 NFL Draft.

So how does a defense allow 68 points in a single game? One tried-and-true method is to play the game by Arena Football rules, but clearly this was not the case at Kenan Stadium Saturday. Instead, you need a combination of some other numbers.

Georgia Tech’s triple-option offense became a quadruple-option offense, thanks in no small part to North Carolina’s much maligned secondary. The Yellow Jackets passed for 208 yards in the contest, marking only the second time they eclipsed the 200-passing yard barrier. The other time? A 59-3 win against Presbyterian.

Between the 6:08 mark of the first quarter and the 3:40 mark of the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech had the ball twelve times. On those 12 drives, they scored 10 times, with the only exceptions being an early-fourth-quarter interception returned by Tim Scott for a touchdown and Georgia Tech’s one quarterback draw to run out the clock before halftime.

Fifteen times, the Yellow Jackets faced third down. Nine times, they converted. Of the six failures, two led to made field goals, two led to punts, one led to a fourth-down conversion, and one was nullified by a defensive penalty that gave Georgia Tech a first down.

Having watched plenty of college football shootouts (last year’s Alamo Bowl comes to mind, a 67-56 Baylor victory over Washington, although it is hardly the shootout-iest or best known), I’ve always wondered what it must be like for fans of a team involved in such a game. Impartial viewers find the high scoring exciting. However, when you have a horse in the race, I’ve now determined from Saturday’s experience that any football game where you feel like a defensive stop would be the equivalent of breaking serve in tennis is no fun to be a part of. But maybe that’s sour grapes.

ALL THE PERKS OF MAUI, WITHOUT, YOU KNOW, MAUI: Of course, this weekend also marked the official beginning of the college basketball season. North Carolina tipped off against Gardner-Webb and Florida Atlantic. The latter of these games was considered a “Maui Invitational” game despite being played at the Smith Center. This is because Florida Atlantic is one of four “mainland” teams that will be competing in the Maui Invitational Regional Round. This four-team tournament will be held this weekend in the tropical getaway known as Elon, North Carolina, where it is expected to be a refreshing and rainy 52 degrees Sunday during the championship game of the tournament.

I’m sure there are plenty of benefits for Colgate, Elon, Florida Atlantic, and Coppin State for participating in this event, not to mention the opportunity to play at places like North Carolina, Butler, or Texas beforehand on national television. However, it still seems to be a bit of a raw deal for these schools to be “included” in the Maui Invitational without a trip to Hawaii being part of the gig.

It reminds me a bit of some changes in other early-season tournaments, including a tale that involves North Carolina’s “other” opponent this weekend. The circle of life!

As people who have been following me on Twitter may recall, I was in Greensboro this past March for the “second-and-third rounds” of the NCAA Tournament. While there, I bought a Lehigh t-shirt essentially for the sole purpose of an easy laugh. I didn’t actually enjoy watching Duke lose, not nearly as much as other folks at the Greensboro Coliseum that Friday night. Enjoying it seemed like an easy way to ensure something bad happened to UNC two days later (and it did). I certainly wanted no part of buying the Lehigh Beat Duke shirts floating around – after all, it was Lehigh and not North Carolina that beat Duke, so why on earth was the shirt in Carolina Blue? However, buying an actual Lehigh shirt seemed like a good way to celebrate the successful underdogs rather than agitate the slain Goliaths.

I made a similar purchase roughly five years ago while visiting colleges in high school. One such visit took me to Gardner-Webb University, conveniently one week after the Runnin’ Bulldogs had upset the Kentucky Wildcats in the 2K Sports College Hoops Classic at Rupp Arena. The 2K Sports Classic began with 16 teams in four regionals, one of which was at Lexington in 2007-08. With the upset, Gardner-Webb advanced from the Lexington regional to Madison Square Garden, where they would lose to Connecticut and Oklahoma. Still, the excitement of the victory was a big deal for the Bulldogs. My visit fell on the weekend of the New York contests, and the school had lined up bus trips for students wishing to attend the games … which naturally left the already-small campus in already-small Boiling Springs, North Carolina looking like a ghost town during my stay. But, hey, the student store was selling a shirt trumpeting the victory to whoever may still be around, and I was more than willing to buy it. After all, I could have ended up a Runnin’ Bulldog myself.

You may have noticed since then (starting in 2009, a year North Carolina was in the field, to be exact) that the format of the 2K Sports Classic has since changed. Now, the four regional hosts are guaranteed spots in the Madison Square Garden games, and we can only imagine this change took place with incredible haste following the Gardner-Webb victory. Upsets are great stories in March, but they don’t sell tickets to Thanksgiving non-conference games, so the little dogs often find themselves getting the leftovers of these extravaganzas.

So, folks taking in basketball this weekend in Elonmaui, North Hawaiilina: You can always hope that someone will remember the joy experienced in Boiling Springs one November and decide, for better or worse on the bottom line, perhaps you too deserve a chance to see the world if your basketball team triumphs. I wouldn’t hold your breath or anything, but it never hurts to dream. And, for what it’s worth, I hope you get that chance some day.

Unless you’re playing the Tar Heels, of course. I already hear enough about Harold Arceneaux.

Zach Evans is brilliantZach Evans is a student at the University of North Carolina and a lifelong fan of the Tar Heels and follower of the ACC. Outside of the ACC, Zach is also a fan of the Atlanta Braves, the Carolina Hurricanes, the Carolina Panthers, and bad puns. He includes nailing the Final Four in his 2009 NCAA Tournament group and batting .000 during the 2011 intramural softball season among his crowning achievements. For more commentary, follow Zach on Twitter at @ztevans.

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