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Georgia Tech clinches berth in ACC title game

Nov 11, 2006 - 10:26 PM CHAPEL HILL, North Carolina (Ticker) -- Georgia Tech coach Chan Gailey can celebrate a berth in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. Fired North Carolina coach John Bunting may not even get to enjoy a conference win.

Tashard Choice rushed for 119 yards and the game's only touchdown as 19th-ranked Georgia Tech clinched a spot in the ACC title game with a 7-0 victory over North Carolina.

The Yellow Jackets (8-2, 6-1 ACC Coastal) will face the winner of the Atlantic Division in the ACC championship game on December 2 at Jacksonville, Florida.

"It wasn't pretty, but we were able to win even though we didn't execute enough on offense," said Gailey, who is in his fifth year as Georgia Tech coach. "Defensively, we forced some big turnovers and shut them down."

It was the first shutout for the Yellow Jackets since they beat Virginia, 35-0, on November 9, 2000.

Georgia Tech needed a win against either North Carolina (1-9, 0-6 Coastal) or winless Duke next week to reach the conference title game since it had the tiebreaker advantage over Virginia Tech due to a head-to-head win - a 38-27 victory on September 30.

The Yellow Jackets received a tougher battle than expected from North Carolina, which has just one win this season and that came against Division I-AA Furman on September 16.

Also, the Tar Heels have been distracted since the Winston-Salem Journal reported last Wednesday that Butch Davis would take over as their coach next season.

North Carolina has been in the market for a new coach after it was announced on October 22 that Bunting would not return next season.

"I'm proud of the way the players battled today," Bunting said. "We have two more conference games left and these kids deserve to win them. We just need to put together a complete game. Last week, we scored points but we didn't play well defensively. This time, our defense stepped up but we didn't execute on offense."

Choice, who rushed for a career-high 164 yards on 34 carries in a win at North Carolina State last week, again played the role of workhorse for Georgia Tech, carrying the ball 32 times

"The coach called my number and we were able to control the ball," said Choice, who raised his season totals to 940 rushing yards and eight touchdowns. "This was a physical game and we had to grind it out. But we should have played better than we did."

The junior had 13 carries for 41 yards in a 20-play, 83-yard scoring drive that lasted 10 1/2 minutes. Fittingly, he capped it with a three-yard touchdown run with 12:11 left in the second quarter.

Joe Dailey threw for three touchdowns in North Carolina' 45-26 loss at Notre Dame last week. But against the Yellow Jackets, he completed just 13-of-34 passes for 156 yards and threw two critical interceptions in the end zone on consecutive drives in the second quarter to end scoring threats.

The first interception was by cornerback Kenny Scott on a 3rd-and-goal play from the Georgia Tech 9 with 4:44 left in the first half. Scott caught an overthrown pass by Dailey while falling to the ground in the back of the end zone.

The Tar Heels reached the Georgia Tech 12 on their next drive, but safety Jamal Lewis intercepted a pass by Dailey in the middle of the end zone and returned it 17 yards to end the half.

"Any time you get down there in the red zone and don't come away with points, that's devastating," Bunting said.

The Tar Heels totaled just 211 yards and were 2-of-13 on third-down conversions.

Georgia Tech wasn't much better, totaling 221 yards. Reggie Ball completed just 10-of-24 passes for 78 yards with an interception and star receiver Calvin Johnson was held to three catches for 13 yards.

"They were doubling Calvin every snap, not every now and then, but every snap," Gailey said.

The other Johnson for Georgia Tech at wide receiver - James Johnson - had five catches for 33 yards.

Since its lone win over Furman, North Carolina has lost seven in a row, including a 23-0 defeat at Virginia. This marked the first time since 1989 that the Tar Heels have been shut out twice in a season.

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