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Late field goal lifts Tech over Heels, 27-25

Jackets improve to 7-4; Georgia up next

POSTED: November 21, 2007 5:04 a.m.
ATLANTA — After missing one chance to give Georgia Tech the lead in the final 3 minutes, Travis Bell made the most of his unexpected kick for redemption.

Bell atoned for an earlier miss by kicking a 27-yard field goal with 15 seconds left as Georgia Tech overcame four lost fumbles to beat North Carolina 27-25 on Saturday.

Georgia Tech quarterback Taylor Bennett’s second fumble gave North Carolina possession at the Yellow Jackets’ 2, setting up a touchdown that gave the Tar Heels a 25-24 lead with 5:50 remaining.

Bell then missed a 33-yard attempt with 2:31 left.

"I probably just lost my focus," said Bell, a senior. "I let my nerves get the best of me. ... That probably was the longest two and a half minutes of my life."

North Carolina, trying to work the clock, had to punt after gaining only 1 yard on three carries.

Georgia Tech got the ball back at the 50 after a 29-yard punt by Terrence Brown.

Tashard Choice, who had 33 carries for 142 yards, quickly moved Georgia Tech into field goal position.

Tech was out of timeouts and was preparing to rush its field-goal unit onto the field following Choice’s final carry when North Carolina called a timeout with 18 seconds left.

North Carolina coach Butch Davis said he was not trying to stop the clock so early. He said he was only trying to alert the officials and his team that he planned to call a timeout before Bell could attempt the field goal.

Davis then called his final timeout.

Bell then made a 32-yard kick, but officials had waved the play dead because North Carolina had 12 players on the field.

After the penalty, Bell was good from 27 yards. Bell said he wasn’t surprised by either timeout taken by North Carolina but he said "It helped me mentally to know I had the timeout."

Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey said his team would have had enough time to line up for the field goal even without the first timeout. He said he never doubted Bell.

"No, heavens no," Gailey said.

"I told him when he came off the field when they called the timeout ‘Hey, not many guys get the opportunity to do it twice. You get the chance. Go do it."’

North Carolina’s Connor Barth had a 63-yard field goal attempt partially blocked on the final play.

The Tar Heels (3-8, 2-5 Atlantic Coast Conference) still haven’t won outside the state of North Carolina since beating Arizona State in 2002.

North Carolina has four losses by no more than four points, and Davis said he couldn’t fault his team’s effort.

"There was not one kid that played in that ballgame that had anything left in the tank," Davis said. "As a coach I will tell you that I am very proud of the way these kids played today. We have obvious issues and shortcomings but we have never used any of those as excuses.

"We put ourselves in position to win and were one first down away from maybe pulling off a miracle."

Greg Smith had six catches for 155 yards and two touchdowns for Georgia Tech (7-4, 4-4 ACC), which has finished .500 or better in the conference 13 straight years.

Each team will finish its regular season against state rivals. Tech will play host to Georgia and North Carolina will return to Chapel Hill to face Duke.

Bennett’s second fumble came when he was sacked by North Carolina’s Da’Norris Searcy. Hilee Taylor recovered for the Tar Heels at the Georgia Tech 2, and Anthony Elzy scored from the 1 for a 25-24 lead.

"I thought I’d already got the ball out," Bennett said of the fumble. "I thought it was incomplete, but they ruled it a fumble."

Georgia Tech answered with a drive to the North Carolina 16, but Bell’s try was wide right.

North Carolina freshman Greg Little moved from wide receiver for an impressive first start at tailback and had 24 carries for 89 yards.

"You want to talk about a kid that got a crash course in learning this week, you can’t say enough about what Little did," Davis said.

Another freshman, T.J. Yates, was 21-of-35 for 283 yards and a touchdown to set the Tar Heels record for yards passing in a season. Yates has 2,586 yards to pass Darian Durant’s total of 2,551 in 2003.

Hakeem Nicks, a sophomore, had seven catches for 162 yards.

"Their record doesn’t reflect the kind of team they are," said Bennett of North Carolina. "They had a lot of freshmen. They are going to be good."

Smith scored on a 40-yard pass from Bennett in the third quarter and added a 47-yard touchdown catch from freshman Josh Nesbitt in the fourth.

Bennett also caught a 17-yard touchdown on a halfback pass from Choice in the first quarter. It was Bennett’s first career catch and Choice’s first career pass.

"There’s not a person in the world who wouldn’t think that was a mistake," Bennett joked.

Barth kicked field goals of 42, 21, 39 and 32 yards to give him a school-record 54 for his career.


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