Virginia Tech rode another good performance by Logan Thomas to a 27-17 win over North Carolina, who played without the services of starting QB Bryn Renner.
It was announced Saturday morning that Renner, who was in a walking boot all week, would not be playing, and that backup QB Marquise Williams would get the start for the Heels. Williams ended up 23-35 for 277 yards for the day, but a slow start for the UNC offense — and a hot first half for the Hokie offense — spurred the Hokies to the win.
Logan Thomas had his second straight strong outing for the Hokies, going 19-28 for 293 yards, 3 touchdowns, and no interceptions. Over his last two games, Thomas is now 38-53 (71.7%) for 514 yards, 4 TDs, and 0 INTs.
Thomas started out strong, completing eight of his first nine passes on the way to a 13-20 first half for 230 yards and 3 touchdowns, sparking the Hokies to a 21-7 halftime lead. Thomas’ first half included a 45-yard TD to Demitri Knowles, an 83-yard non-scoring play to Willie Byrn, and touchdown passes of 9 and 5 yards to D.J. Coles.
The Hokie running game continues to struggle, however. UNC came into the game with the #112 rushing defense in the nation, giving up 234.5 rushing yards per game, but the Hokies only managed 48 yards on 34 carries, including just one yard in the second half. Trey Edmunds (14 carries, 27 yards) and J.C. Coleman (8 carries, 26 yards) combined to average just 2.4 yards per carry.
Defensively, the Hokies got off to a strong start, giving up just 26 yards in the first quarter and 147 yards in the first half. But UNC got stronger on offense as the game went on and ended up with 376 yards (229 in the second half). Playing a hurry-up style of offense, the Heels put together four drives of 9+ plays, including TD drives of 10 plays, 75 yards and 13 plays, 89 yards.
Jack Tyler and Tariq Edwards each had 11 tackles to lead the Hokies, who registered six tackles for loss and two sacks. Kyshoen Jarrett and Kyle Fuller each had interceptions for the Hokies.
One big key to the win was the turnover battle, which the Hokies won 3-0. For the second game in a row, Virginia Tech didn’t turn the ball over, but UNC’s Williams threw two interceptions, including a critical 4th down play in Tech territory, early in the fourth quarter with Tech holding a 21-10 lead. North Carolina punt returner Ryan Switzer fumbled a punt on the UNC 17 yard line with six minutes left to go, and the Hokies turned it into a touchdown that put Tech up 27-10 with four minutes left.
In the last two games, the Hokies have a 6-0 lead in turnovers, and not coincidentally, a 2-0 record in the ACC.
The Hokies were also more disciplined. UNC, 85th in the nation in penalties per game coming in, was flagged 11 times for 79 yards. UNC had a punt return touchdown called back due to an illegal block, and a facemask penalty on the Heels kept alive a Hokie drive that resulted in a touchdown late in the game. UNC’s Jack Tabb was ejected late in the game after throwing a punch at Tech’s Tyrel Wilson.
Neither team could manage much offensively in the early going, but with 4:17 left to go in the first quarter, the Hokies got the first break when UNC blew coverage on Demitri Knowles, who got behind the defense and hauled in a 45-yarder from Logan Thomas to put the Hokies up 7-0.
After a three-and-out by the Heels, the Hokies put together their best drive of the game, a 12-play, 73-yard possession that ended with Thomas hitting D.J. Coles for a 9-yard TD on third and goal. That put the Hokies up 14-0 with 12:56 to go in the second quarter.
At that point, VT had 174 yards to 26 for UNC, but the Tar Heels came to life. Williams caught fire, completing 5-of-7 passes for 85 yards on a 10-play, 75-yard drive that included a holding call. UNC converted a fourth and one at the Hokie ten yard line, and Williams hit star tight end Eric Ebron for a six-yard TD over Kendall Fuller. It was a great catch by the 6-4 Ebron over the 5-11 Fuller.
That made it 14-7, and when UNC later pinned the Hokies at their own two yard line with 4:30 left in the half, it looked like that might be the halftime score, at best. But on the first play of the drive, Willie Byrn got behind the UNC defense, and Thomas hit him for a short pass that Byrn turned into an 83-yard gain, down to the UNC 15 yard line. Four plays later, on first and goal from the UNC five, Thomas hit D.J. Coles again, for a TD that put Tech up 21-7.
The third quarter belonged to UNC. The Heels outgained Tech 122-13 and ran 23 plays to just nine for the Hokies, but could only add a field goal to close the gap to 21-10. Late in the quarter, UNC had a second and goal at the Tech five yard line, but a five-yard sack by Luther Maddy, followed by a nine-yard loss on a reverse (tackle by J.R. Collins), put the Heels at the 19-yard line, and they kicked a field goal to make it 21-10.
After a three-and-out by the Hokie offense, UNC drove from their 21 yard line to the Hokies’ 33, where they faced a fourth and one. Williams had been smoking hot, completing nine of ten passes to open the second half, but on the fourth and one, he slightly underthrew tight end Jack Tabb on a short pass down the middle, and Kyle Fuller made an athletic interception to pull the ball away from Tabb.
The Hokies took over possession with 13:13 to go and a 21-10 lead, and finally, coming off four straight three-and-outs, showed some life offensively. Logan Thomas completed four straight passes for 55 yards to move the ball to the UNC 36, but Thomas was sacked back to the 50 yard line, and the drive ended. Still, the Hokies had burned 6:47 off the clock with the possession.
Tech’s A.J. Hughes punted to the UNC 14 yard line, and the Heels’ Ryan Switzer, who had previously returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown, only to have it called back due to an illegal block, fumbled the punt at the 17, where Chase Williams jumped on it.
Helped by a face mask penalty on the Heels, the Hokies burned even more clock, then scored on a Trey Edmunds 1-yard run with 4:06 left to put Tech up 27-10. (Cody Journell’s extra point attempt was blocked.)
The Tar Heels drove 89 yards and scored a cosmetic touchdown with 1:09 left, when Williams hit Quinshad Davis for a 24-yard TD on fourth and ten. The Hokies’ Charley Meyer recovered the onside kick, and Tech ran out the clock for the win.
Virginia Tech has now won eight of their last nine games, dating back to last season. The Hokies are 5-1 (2-0 ACC), while North Carolina falls to 1-4 (0-2 ACC). Virginia Tech’s next game is at home on October 12th against Coastal Division foe Pittsburgh (3-1, 2-1 ACC). The game is scheduled for noon and will be televised on ESPNU.
Virginia Tech Postgame Notes, courtesy Virginia Tech Athletics Communications
• Tech wore maroon helmets with maroon jerseys and white pants. Tech is now 104-31 under head coach Frank Beamer in this uniform combination.
• With Tech’s first score, the Hokies extended their scoring streak to 236 games, the 13th-longest in NCAA Division I history. Five of the 12 streaks ahead of Tech’s are active streaks.
• Senior quarterback Logan Thomas became Tech’s all-time leader in passing yardage with his third completion, a 5-yard pass to Demitri Knowles. He moved past Tyrod Taylor (2007-10; 7,017 yards) and with 293 yards in the game, he now has 7,308 yards.
• Senior D.J. Coles hauled in his team-leading fourth and fifth touchdown passes in the second quarter. He has 11 catches on the year, five going for scores. He is the first Tech player since Marcus Davis (Duke, 2012) to catch two touchdown passes in a game.
• Willie Byrn’s 83-yard catch is tied for the seventh-longest in school history (modern era) and is the longest since Marcus Davis had an 85-yard catch for a touchdown last year at Pittsburgh. It’s the third-longest non-scoring pass play in school history.
• Thomas now has 45 career touchdown passes, moving him past Will Furrer (43) and Tyrod Taylor (44) into third place all-time at Tech. The record is 48 by Bryan Randall with Maurice DeShazo sitting in second place with 47. His three touchdown passes tie a career high, done two other times. His 293 yards passing are the fourth-highest total in his career.
• Byrn had a career-high 118 yards receiving in the game, becoming the first Tech player this year to reach 100 yards receiving. Demitri Knowles had 99 yards against East Carolina this year.
• Kyshoen Jarrett recorded his second career interception in the second quarter. Kyle Fuller picked off his sixth career pass in the fourth quarter.
• Tech has now intercepted 12 passes during the past five games, 13 for the year. The Hokies have recorded at least one quarterback sack and an interception in 10 consecutive games.
• Tech already has 13 interceptions this year in five games, matching its total from all of last season (13 games).
• North Carolina’s touchdown late marked the first points Tech has given up in the fourth quarter this season.
• A.J. Hughes’ 46.1-yard average is his highest single-game average for his career, topping his 45.9-yard average against Cincinnati last year. He had a long of 56 yards with two kicks downed inside the 20-yard line today.
• With two interceptions and a fumble recovery today, Tech is now +9 on the season in the takeaway category. The Hokies have picked off 13 passes and recovered three fumbles while throwing six picks and losing a fumble.
• It took Virginia Tech to its 11th game of the season last year to get to five wins. It’s taken six games this season.