With a 31-27 loss against cross-town rival N.C. State this weekend, North Carolina is no longer bowl eligible in head coach Butch Davis' first season. However, that does not mean the season is over.
UNC (3-7, 2-4 in the ACC) will travel to Atlanta on Saturday to go head-to-head with a Georgia Tech (6-4, 3-4) team that has seen time in the national polls throughout the year. With only two games remaining on the schedule, the Tar Heels will play for more than just a victory - they'll be playing for pride.
A running struggle
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North Carolina's inability to establish a successful running attack, and the team's showing in Raleigh was no exception.
Running backs Anthony Elzy and Johnny White led UNC with 10 rushing yards a piece, and the team was able to manage only a mere 12 net yards - its lowest rushing total since 1999. GT's defense, ranked sixth in the nation, will again make it hard for North Carolina to find any kind of rhythm.
"I think we maybe only had 14 or 15 runs in the entire ball game, and that's not enough," Davis said of the N.C. State game. "You'd like to be balanced, and so far we haven't accomplished that this year."
And while the Tar Heels have struggled on the ground all year, the Yellow Jackets have not. UNC's secondary is going to have plenty to worry about with Georgia Tech running back Tashard Choice on the field. Choice is coming off his sixth 100-yard game of the season and could pose big problems for the defense in open territory.
"We're definitely going to have to gang tackle this guy," redshirt freshman Kendric Burney said. "He runs hard, and he's one of the top backs in the nation."
UNC seeking first road win
North Carolina's last road game of the season could also be the team's only road win. Going 0-5 away from the comfort of Kenan Stadium, UNC has struggled to get off to energetic starts. Redshirt freshman quarterback T.J. Yates has thrown an interception on the first drive of the last two away games.
"I've asked myself probably for the last eight or nine weeks about slow starts," Davis said. "The only thing that I can come up with is it might be indicative of a young football team with a lot of young players."
Although the team is brimming with youth, some added incentive for the veterans is also the fact that no one on the team has won a game outside the state of North Carolina.
The last win came in 2002 when Darian Durant was calling the shots as a sophomore, and after dropping a nail-biter to the Wolfpack, team morale could certainly use a boost in Georgia.
"It means a lot," senior center Scott Lenahan said. "We're happy to get any kind of win, but going down to Georgia Tech and beating Georgia Tech would be really big, especially on the road."
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