ATLANTA — For Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson, the math was simple.
“If you hold the ball for 38 minutes, you should win,” he said.
Georgia Tech played keep-away against North Carolina, dominating the clock with its ball-control offense, and KirVonte Benson scored on a 63-yard run as the Yellow Jackets beat the Tar Heels 33-7 on Saturday.
Georgia Tech (3-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) had scoring drives of 18 and 17 plays in the first half to wear down short-handed North Carolina (1-4, 0-3).
TaQuon Marshall ran for 137 yards, including a 5-yard touchdown run, and threw a 12-yard scoring pass to Ricky Jeune. Benson added 130 yards rushing.
“It was a step up from last week,” Marshall said, referring to his play in last week’s 35-17 win over Pittsburgh. “It’s still not where I want to be.”
Georgia Tech held the ball almost twice as long as the Tar Heels. The Yellow Jackets pulled away after leading only 10-0 at halftime.
“I think we just executed better in the second half,” Marshall said. “We just got in a groove.”
The Tar Heels have lost 13 players, including top wide receiver Austin Proehl, to season-ending injuries.
North Carolina avoided being shut out when Jordon Brown scored on an 8-yard run with 5:05 remaining. The touchdown was set up by Chazz Surratt’s 34-yard pass to Jordan Cunningham.
It was a dramatic departure from recent shootouts in the series. North Carolina averaged 44.7 points in winning the last three games against Georgia Tech.
The Yellow Jackets held the ball for 18 plays and 8 minutes, 54 seconds on a 90-yard touchdown drive capped by Marshall’s 5-yard run in the first quarter.
It was Georgia Tech’s longest touchdown drive since 2012. The Yellow Jackets then added a 17-play, 74-yard drive in the second quarter that ended with a 21-yard field goal by Shawn Davis.
“The defense played 44 snaps in the first half, so there was no doubt that they were going to end up wearing down,” said North Carolina coach Larry Fedora.
Georgia Tech, which lost four fumbles in the win over Pittsburgh, had two more lost fumbles by Marshall and Benson. One play after Marshall’s fumble, A.J. Gray had the first of his two interceptions to give possession back to the Yellow Jackets. Benson then broke free for his 63-yard touchdown run.
“The turnover was a big play for us,” Fedora said. “... Then we don’t capitalize on offense.”
Benson fumbled at the goal line late in the third quarter.
Georgia Tech backup quarterback Matthew Jordan had a 5-yard scoring run with less than 2 minutes remaining.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels offense, so high-powered in wins over Georgia Tech the last three years, showed the effects of the latest string of season-ending injuries. In addition to Proehl, defensive tackle Tyler Powell, tight end Carl Tucker and receiver Rontavius Groves were declared out for the season this week.
Georgia Tech: The productive spread-option attack grabs the headlines, but the Yellow Jackets are also winning with defense this season. Gray’s two interceptions led the way for a unit which could be the difference in the team’s hopes in the ACC Coastal Division.
North Carolina’s Freeman Jones was wide-left on a 40-yard field goal in the second quarter and again was left on a 52-yard attempt to end the half. Entering the game, Jones had made three of four field goal attempts, but none longer than 39 yards. He has missed each of his three attempts this season from 40 yards or longer.
HIGH MARK FOR JOHNSON
It marked the first time in Johnson’s 10 seasons the Yellow Jackets had two scoring drives of at least 17 plays in a game.
North Carolina: The Tar Heels on Saturday will make their first visit to No. 22 Notre Dame since taking a 29-24 win in 2008.
Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets will be off on Saturday before playing at No. 14 Miami on Oct. 14.