By Doug Roberson
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – The Vad Lee era may have begun Saturday afternoon in Georgia Tech’s 68-50 victory over North Carolina.
Lee, a quarterback whom Yellow Jackets fans have been pleading to see more of all season, entered in the third series and remained the Jackets’ quarterback till the end. He led the team to 55 points, scoring on nine of his 12 drives in front of more than 30 friends and family from his nearby hometown of Durham.
“I just wanted to play my best game and take advantage of my best opportunity,” he said.
Coach Paul Johnson said the plan was to give Tevin Washington, who led the Jackets to their first touchdown, and Lee two consecutive series each at the beginning of the game and then decide who would go out on the fifth series.
But Lee seldom stopped scoring. Then Johnson said it reached a point where it became Lee’s game. Johnson declined to say if Lee would start next week’s game against Duke, though he acknowledged Lee “played pretty good.”
“I’m drained watching him play,” Johnson said. “He’s talented. He makes big plays, but he’s a freshman, but he plays the game.”
Lee rushed 23 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns and completed six of 10 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception.
“I didn’t imagine this game swinging this way, but anything it takes to win,” he said.
It wasn’t all pretty, but when it wasn’t, Lee usually bounced back.
Lee almost ran a toss sweep into “40 guys” on a fourth-and-goal from the 1-yard line in the second quarter. But Johnson recognized the danger and called a timeout just before the snap. Lee said he saw that the Tar Heels had the numerical advantage, but he wanted to try to make a play, perhaps showing why Johnson said he was “drained” watching him. After the timeout, during which Johnson changed the call, Lee barreled in for the touchdown.
Lee then showed again why fans have been clamoring for him to play, throwing a 32-yard touchdown pass with a delicate touch to Robbie Godhigh in the third quarter.
“That … was a pretty good throw,” Johnson said.
Lee later threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown to cut Tech’s lead to 58-50 in the fourth quarter and give the Tar Heels hope. Lee said he had a miscommunication with Darren Waller, who took off up the field. The pass went right to Tim Scott, who didn’t bite on the move.
But Lee answered on the next drive, rushing for 39 yards on a third-and-5 to set up a 22-yard touchdown run by Orwin Smith on an option play. The score gave the Jackets a 65-50 lead with 11:02 left to play.
“The kid makes plays, and he did today,” Johnson said.