When was the last time, except maybe in the days of the double-wing “T,” you heard of a quarterback that carried the ball 32 times? That’s right, Nesbitt toted the rock 32 times for 112 yards. Counting his 7-of-11 passing for 89 yards, he was the man on 43 of Georgia Tech’s 73 plays. By himself he more than doubled the 52.3 yards per game the Tar Heels were yielding coming into the day.
“The quarterback carried the ball a lot and we knew he was going to carry the ball a lot,” defensive tackle Marvin Austin said. “That’s a guy with some heart, to run the ball 32 times. We put a lot of hits on him, I wish we could have gotten a lot more.”
It’s not as though the Tar Heel defense didn’t hit Nesbitt – they did, over and over. Nesbitt just kept bouncing up off the turf all the way into the fourth quarter, capping his day with a 10-yard run to put the game well out of reach, 24-7. He even had enough energy left to get flagged for excessive celebration after the play.
“[He] took any chance they had out unless they could have gotten a couple of big strikes,” said Yellow Jackets head coach Paul Johnson.
Starting in the second quarter, Nesbitt just seemed to put the Yellow Jackets on his back and carry them.
Jonathan Dwyer did do his damage (19 carries for 164 yards) and contributed to the Yellow Jackets’ win.
“He’s a very good back,” UNC linebacker Bruce Carter said of Dwyer. “He’s big, he’s got good feet, he’s got good vision for a running back. That’s probably the best back we’ve played so far.”
There were a couple of big plays from Dwyer and one from Anthony Allen, but Georgia Tech didn’t have as many long plays as we’ve come to expect from Paul Johnson’s offense. But, as Butch Davis said following the game, they didn’t need them. They didn’t need them because Nesbitt kept doing whatever he needed to do to keep moving the chains.
“I think (Nesbitt) played a great game today,” Johnson said. “He handled the ball and did some things and at the end when we had to have him on the mid-line option he came up big running the ball. We converted some key third down conversions.”
Johnson said “we” – but he meant “Nesbitt” because when the game was on the line it was usually the junior quarterback who delivered for the Yellow Jackets, who almost reversed the score of last year’s 28-7 defeat in Chapel Hill.
So while a lot of discussion this week may focus on a lack of intensity by the Tar Heels to open the game, the struggles of Yates and the offense, and the gut-punch that this game was for the 2009 Tar Heels, sometimes you have to give credit where credit is due.
Today, Josh Nesbitt deserves some credit.