2005 Keys to the Game: North Carolina

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After throttling their in-state rivals and receiving an early Christmas gift from Georgia Tech, the Hokies look to ride their good fortune to a victory over the North Carolina Tar Heels this Saturday night in a cold and blustery Lane Stadium. It will be the last home game for one of the great senior classes in Virginia Tech history and they have the well-deserved chance to go out in style � the chance to lead their teammates to the ACC�s Coastal Division title and a berth in the inaugural ACC Championship game next week in Jacksonville..

I have to admit, there is something poetic about the Tar Heels being the last hurdle to clear for the Hokies to reach the ACC�s first ever title game. Nothing would please Hokie fans more than to celebrate the historic milestone victory at the expense of the Tar Heels � the ACC�s icon program and leader of several anti-Virginia Tech campaigns over the years.

Let�s take a look at how they can get it done.

Game Key: Dominate the 1st Quarter

UNC is a capable team that has struggled at times while playing one of the toughest schedules in college football. They are tough and physical with good talent at several positions, but they haven�t been able to put it together on a consistent basis. Outside of a blowout loss at Louisville, they have played tough in losses to Georgia Tech, Wisconsin, Miami and Maryland and in victories over NC State, Utah, Virginia and Boston College. With that schedule, they won�t be intimidated coming into Lane Stadium to play the Hokies.

One key for UNC this year has been their ability to get things started quickly. They have been outstanding on kickoff returns, although their leading return man (Wallace Wright) was lost for the season with an injury last week against Duke. Should the Hokies win the coin toss, there is little doubt that they will defer until the 2nd half, so coverage on that first kickoff will be something to watch carefully.

The Hokies want to put the clamps on the Heels early and take it to them on both sides of the ball. Getting an early lead will force UNC away from their game plan and put additional burden on the shoulders on QB Matt Baker. Forcing the Heels to play from behind, particularly in bitter cold and windy conditions, is just what the Hokies are looking to get.

If the Heels can hang close and make some plays, then this game will start to look a lot like the