ATLANTA (AP) — Haynes King scrambled to his right, looking desperately for someone — anyone — who might be open for Georgia Tech. Just when it looked as if he was all out of time, Brett Seither suddenly appeared in the back corner of the end zone.
King hurled the ball toward his big tight end.
Seither made the leaping catch while somehow grazing the turf with the tip of his left cleat before tumbling out of bounds.
King’s 5-yard touchdown pass to Seither with 4:28 remaining gave Georgia Tech a 46-42 victory over No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday night, handing the Tar Heels another shocking loss.
“I couldn’t be more proud of these guys right now,” Georgia Tech coach Brent Key said.
Overcoming an early two-touchdown blitz by North Carolina (6-2, 3-2 Atlantic Coast Conference) and a 10-point deficit in the fourth quarter, Georgia Tech shredded the Tar Heels defense for 635 yards in a shootout that was finally decided by a big hit on defense.
King was 23 of 30 for 287 yards and four touchdowns — two of them to Seither, the other two hauled in by Malik Rutherford. Dontae Smith rushed for 178 yards and another score for the Yellow Jackets (4-4, 3-2).
“We played awful defense in the fourth quarter,” North Carolina coach Mack Brown said. “It was awful.”
Coming off an inexplicable 31-27 loss at home to a one-win Virginia team, North Carolina jumped ahead 14-0 and appeared to be in good shape when Drake Maye hooked up with Don Chapman on a 35-yard touchdown with 11:13 remaining to make it 42-32.
But, just two plays later, Smith broke loose right down the middle of the field for a 70-yard touchdown that suddenly made it a game again.
North Carolina responded by driving into position for a field goal attempt. Noah Burnette had not missed all season, coming into the night 11 of 11, but he yanked a 39-yarder wide left.
King seized on the opportunity, breaking off another huge run on the very next play. He went 52 yards before the Tar Heels finally hauled him down, putting Georgia Tech into field goal range just like that.
“I thought we were in great shape,” Brown said. “They adjusted and ran the ball and we couldn’t stop ’em. Just very, very disappointing.”
Smith ripped off runs of 10 and 14 yards, only to be thrown for a 4-yard loss on second-and-goal at the 1. On third down, King rolled to his right, desperately scanning the end zone, before he spotted Seither in the back right corner.
North Carolina’s final gasp ended with Maye’s 36-yard pass to Devontez Walker, who was looking to his right when Ahmari Harvey delivered a crunching blindisde hit from the left to knock the ball loose.
K.J. Wallace fell on the fumble for Georgia Tech, which ran out the clock and sent a small but vocal crowd storming the field on homecoming at Bobby Dodd Stadium.
Maye threw for 310 yards and two touchdowns, to go along with a 14-yard scoring run. Omarion Hampton had a big game on the ground, rushing for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
But it wasn’t enough against a Georgia Tech team that broke off one big play after another.
North Carolina: A dream season for the Tar Heels has suddenly gone up in smoke. This defeat falls on the defense, which simply couldn’t find a way to stop the relentless Yellow Jackets. North Carolina gave up 8.1 yards per play and a staggering 348 yards on the ground. “We’ve got to go home, grow up, handle it, take responsibility for it, and move on,” Brown said.
Georgia Tech: Key improved to 4-0 against ranked ACC opponents, and this was a big one. With two straight road games coming up, the Yellow Jackets got a much-needed victory to bolster their chances of becoming bowl eligible for the first time since 2018.
Walker, who has made a big impact after a long eligibility fight with the NCAA, remained on the turf for several minutes after his fumble.
Worried teammates kneeled around him while he was treated by the training staff.
Walker was finally able to get up, but he was very wobbly and had to be assisted off the field.
HALL OF FAMER
Georgia Tech honored former coach Paul Johnson, who is being inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.
Johnson was an honorary captain for the pregame coin flip and received a standing ovation when he was introduced on the field during a break in the first quarter.
His name also was added to the facade of the upper deck at Bobby Dodd Stadium where all of the school’s Hall of Famers are recognized.
Johnson coached at Georgia Tech from 2008-18, guiding the Yellow Jackets to an 82-61 record and nine bowl appearances.
North Carolina: Returns home to face FCS opponent Campbell next Saturday.
Georgia Tech: Travels to Virginia for an ACC game next Saturday.