QB throws for career-high 320 yards

ATLANTA (AP) -- Georgia Tech has played two games and Calvin Johnson, last year's Atlantic Coast Conference rookie of the year, has yet to lead the team in receiving.

That, Damarius Bilbo says, is what makes the Yellow Jackets more dangerous than ever.

With North Carolina's defense focused on Johnson, Bilbo had a career-best day with eight receptions for 131 yards and a touchdown as No. 17 Georgia Tech showed strong offensive balance in beating the Tar Heels 27-21 on Saturday.

"People still haven't seen our best receiver yet," said Bilbo, the senior who began his career as a quarterback and saw playing time at both positions last year.

Added Bilbo, now a full-time receiver: "Calvin could get us open if he just stood there with two or three defenders on him."

Bilbo, who had a total of six receptions the last two years, enjoyed his breakout game.

"I kept looking at my jersey to make sure it was No. 8," said Bilbo, referring to his number. "I thought it was No. 21."

Bilbo's mother, Deborah Ann Coney, drove to Atlanta on Friday from Moss Point, Miss., in the Gulf Coast area ravaged by Hurricane Katrina.

"She just had to get away from it," Bilbo said. "My grandmother lost everything. My aunt lost the first floor of her home."

Bilbo said his mother's home wasn't severely damaged.

"She's been going around helping people," he said.

"I'm sure it was a stress reliever for her to be here, but she's tough, man. I'm sure she can handle everything," he said.

Johnson, who had six catches for 114 yards, still wears No. 21 and still had his share of big plays. But after Pat Clark led Tech with six catches in last week's win at Auburn, coach Chan Gailey continued to show off his team's offensive balance in the conference opener.

Ball, who threw for two touchdowns and a career-high 320 yards, completed passes to eight receivers. P.J. Daniels added 103 yards rushing.

Tech (2-0, 1-0) finished with 475 total yards.

After North Carolina pulled to within six points late in the fourth quarter, the Tar Heels stopped Tech on three plays and took possession at its 41 with 2:51 left to play. Tech's Dennis Davis intercepted a long pass from Matt Baker near the goal line to end the threat.

The Tar Heels (0-1, 0-1) got the ball again at their 19 with 44 seconds left, but Baker's third interception of the game, this one by Tech safety Dawan Landry, ended the comeback hopes.

"That was one grand M.O. -- missed opportunity," North Carolina coach John Bunting said. "We have to do a much better job of finishing the job."

In his first start, Baker completed 18-of-39 passes for 280 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for a score.

"We could have won the game," Baker said. "We knew we were in position. We took a shot and lost on it."

A 17-yard scoring pass from Baker to Jawarski Pollock pulled the Tar Heels to within six points at 27-21 with 4:16 left.

Ball's previous high was 288 yards passing against Connecticut in 2004. The junior had to protect his starting job in spring practice after throwing 18 interceptions last season, but -- thanks in part to the league's new instant replay rule -- he did not have a turnover against the Tar Heels.

On his first pass attempt, Ball threw low for Johnson and officials ruled North Carolina cornerback Cedrick Holt intercepted the ball. The ruling was overturned following the video review.

Able to retain possession, Tech took a 7-0 lead on Ball's 5-yard pass to Daniels following Daniels' 36-yard run.

Tech pushed its lead to 14-0 in the second quarter on the 48-yard touchdown catch by Bilbo, who lost his helmet while falling backward in the end zone.

Baker scored North Carolina's first touchdown on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, and the Tar Heels pulled even on an 87-yard scoring pass from Baker to Derrele Mitchell. Tech's Davis and KaMichael Hall missed tackle attempts as Mitchell ran down the Tech sideline.

Tech answered with 25- and 22-yard field goals by Travis Bell in the third quarter before Ball scored on a 9-yard run early in the fourth quarter.

Freshman James "Cooter" Arnold started at tailback for North Carolina and shared time with LSU transfer Barrington Edwards. The two combined for only 50 yards rushing.