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PHOTO: Marquise Williams
Carolina won a thriller in Kenan Stadium Saturday, beating Georgia Tech 48-43.
CHAPEL HILL (GoHeels.com)— North Carolina's season looked sunk after a four-game losing streak marred by penalties, bad defense and inconsistent offense.
One clutch drive might have allowed the Tar Heels to change course and restore some confidence.
T.J. Logan scored on a 2-yard run with 11 seconds left to help North Carolina rally past Georgia Tech 48-43 on Saturday night, earning a wild win that gave UNC its first Atlantic Coast Conference victory.
Logan's late score capped a 75-yard scoring drive in the final 3 minutes of a back-and-forth game, which saw the Tar Heels (3-4, 1-2 ACC) blow an 11-point fourth-quarter lead only to come up with one more scoring drive.
"Like Coach (Larry) Fedora says, a lot of people are counting us out," Logan said. "They're going to talk bad about us but we're the only guys in the locker room that know we can do it."
From Logan's late score to a brilliant individual performance from quarterback Marquise Williams, it was the kind of moment the Tar Heels have needed for weeks.
The Tar Heels started the year in the Top 25 with hopes of winning the ACC's Coastal Division. They hadn't won since holding off San Diego State here on Sept. 6, giving up 70 points in an ugly loss at East Carolina, and 50 points in losses at Clemson and Notre Dame. Not to mention they were facing a team they hadn't beaten since 2008.
How big was this win?
"Huge, absolutely huge," linebacker Jeff Schoettmer said. "I think it was the turning point to our season really."
Williams threw for 390 yards and four touchdowns to go with a school-record 38 completions, and also ran for 73 yards and a score in his second straight huge performance.
Logan finished with a season-high 75 yards rushing for the Tar Heels, while receiver Ryan Switzer had nine catches for a career-high 136 yards and two touchdowns _ including a 68-yarder midway through the second quarter.
And yet, on a night when both offenses moved the ball at will, the Yellow Jackets (5-2, 2-2) appeared to have snatched this one away from the Tar Heels in stunning fashion.
Trailing 42-31, they made it a one-possession game on Zach Laskey's 14-yard scoring run at the 8-minute mark. Then, after the Yellow Jackets got a rare defensive stop, DeAndre Smelter took a reverse around the left side and raced 75 yards to the end zone for a 43-42 lead with 3:07 left.
Ultimately, that proved to be too much time for Williams, Logan and an offense that rolled to 579 total yards.
"You wanted the ball last," Georgia Tech coach Paul Johnson said. "When we ran the reverse, I felt like the play was there. I almost wish somebody had tackled him."
Williams completed six passes on the go-ahead drive, including a 15-yarder to Romar Morris while drawing a roughing-the-passer penalty that put the ball at the Georgia Tech 4 with 20 seconds left. Then, after a pass interference call brought the ball closer to the goal line, Logan ran through the left side for the winning score.
"We just had to play with confidence as an offense," Williams said. "We told the defense as soon as they came off, we said, `We got your back.'"
Coming off its first loss against Duke last week, Georgia Tech finished with 611 yards against the Tar Heels' struggling defense, which included the run-heavy Yellow Jackets getting big plays through the air, too.
Justin Thomas threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns, while Smelter had a 46-yard scoring catch. Laskey ran for two scores while playing through a shoulder injury.
Georgia Tech had one final possession deep in its own end, but Thomas' desperation deep heave fell incomplete and receiver Michael Summers dropped Thomas' short pass to kill the final seconds.