The Yellow Jackets lit them up for 68 points and 588 total yards last year in the highest-scoring game in Atlantic Coast Conference history, a 68-50 victory over UNC.
The Tar Heels (1-1) are determined to avoid a repeat of that this week when they meet in Atlanta in their league opener.
North Carolina defensive tackle Tim Jackson, who missed that game with a knee injury, said Monday that “seeing those points on the board, it hurt for me, so I know it hurt for those guys on the field.
“To know the offense put up 50 points and they did everything they could to win the game, to put us in position to win the game,” he added. “For the defense to let them down, we all took it personal and want to make sure that doesn’t happen this week.”
The Tar Heels haven’t had to resort to any motivational tricks to get fired up for Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0). Coach Larry Fedora said he doesn’t remember bringing up that score to his team because “I think I put that one out of my mind.
“If you played in that game last year, you know,” he said. “It doesn’t disappear from your memory.”
Besides, this Georgia Tech team might be even tougher to prepare for than the unit that ran all over the Tar Heels last year.
The Yellow Jackets (2-0, 1-0) rank third in the nation in rushing, averaging 356 yards on the ground, and also are No. 3 in scoring with an average of 54 points.
That represents a formidable challenge for a North Carolina defense that has given up at least 400 yards in each of its two games, against No. 12 South Carolina and Middle Tennessee State. UNC ranks 72nd nationally in total defense and 92nd against the run.
Georgia Tech is coming off a 38-14 victory at Duke in which the Yellow Jackets broke out some new formations — including the pistol and a “diamond” alignment in the backfield — that caught the Blue Devils by surprise.
It helped Durham native Vad Lee become the first Tech quarterback under coach Paul Johnson to throw four touchdown passes.
“I feel like they did it just because they could, honestly,” Jackson said. “Another wrinkle for you to prepare for. I’m not sure if they’re even going to run that against us, but it just gives you another reason to prepare for them, another 30 minutes that you have to spend watching film on their formations.
“‘Let’s throw four times and make them prepare for the pass when we’re really going to run the ball,’” he added, saying of Johnson: “Dude’s smart. He knows what he’s doing.”
Lee, who says he grew up a North Carolina fan, rushed for two touchdowns and threw for another in last year’s shootout — a performance he says he’s put out of his mind because “it’s a new season.
“I’m definitely looking forward to playing (UNC) again,” Lee said after the Duke win. “I know they’re looking forward to playing us again because they want to put on a better performance this year.”