UNC Monday Thoughts: Players Step Up for Hokies

Week by week, things just keep getting better and better. The Hokies pulled
away in the third quarter of this one and cruised home, forcing six Tar Heel
turnovers and leaving the home team down in the dumps in front of empty stands
by game’s end. UNC isn’t supposed to beat Virginia Tech in football, and
Saturday’s 26-10 win in Chapel Hill restored the universe to order. One more win
puts the Hokies in the ACC Championship Game.

Confession Time: I came into last week thinking the Hokies were going to lose
this one. I didn’t think the Hokies could run The Gauntlet undefeated, and of
the three big games (GT-UNC-Miami), Georgia Tech and UNC were the worst
matchups. I have become convinced that the Hokies will beat Miami and Virginia,
so once VT downed GT … it was looking more and more likely, to me anyway, that
UNC would be Tech’s one loss in November.

I was also still suffering the aftershocks from watching the Heels just mow
the Hokies down last year in Lane Stadium. I said at the time that UNC was
bigger, faster and stronger than the Hokies that night, and UNC’s overall
athleticism — the best players money can buy, and that tutors can keep eligible
— is still very impressive. Bruce Carter, for example, is a complete freak.

So even with UNC’s roster depleted by “scandal” and injury, I
wasn’t liking the Hokies’ chances. After all, VT was also going to be missing
players: experienced wide receiver Dyrell Roberts, defensive end Chris Drager
from an already thin defensive line, and difference maker David Wilson, without
whom the Hokies might have lost in Raleigh and against the Yellow Jackets.

Not a good setup. I told Chris Coleman I was picking the L.

So what changed? After reading Chris’s breakdown of UNC in the game preview,
I found myself thinking about how unremarkable UNC’s defensive line is this
year. Outside of defensive tackle Quinton Coples, the Heels’ D-line is
unimpressive.

But ultimately, to me it boiled down to Tyrod Taylor vs. T.J. Yates. Both
players were having good seasons. Tyrod was eighth in the nation in passing
efficiency, and Yates wasn’t far behind at #20, enjoying his best season by far.

It looked like a pretty even matchup all around. So I wrote:

One of these teams is going to make the plays to win, and there’s no
telling which one it is. Since this is a VT web site, I’ll go with the Hokies,
in a squeaker: Virginia Tech 24, North Carolina 23.

Not exactly a ringing endorsement. But Monday Thoughts isn’t about what I thought
would happen. It’s about what the Hokies did to overcome the adversity they
faced, and how they countered what UNC threw at them.

Players Step Up

Any time you lose key players to various forms of attrition, the guys who
replace them have to make plays, or you’re probably going to lose. One of the
best examples of this is from Virginia Tech’s basketball season last year, when
Malcolm Delaney was out for a key non-conference game against Seton Hall.
Dorenzo Hudson, who was averaging 10.6 ppg to that point in the season, blew up
against the Hall for 41 points in an important win.

Dyrell Roberts being in the hospital for surgery meant that Marcus Davis
would get more playing time. Coming into this game, Davis had 11 catches for 115
yards (10.5 ypc) and zero touchdowns. Six of his catches and 64 of his yards
came against Duke in a 44-7 blowout win. Not much of a season for a guy who
wears the fabled #7, but he didn’t have much opportunity, either.

Given the opportunity in this game, Davis came through: four catches for 81
yards (20.3 ypc) and two touchdowns. He scored two critical touchdowns in a 17-0
third quarter that put the Heels to bed and emptied Kenan Stadium prematurely,
as the Hokies turned a 10-9 deficit into a 26-10 lead.

Davis nearly made two other catches that would have added about 75 more yards
to his total. One catch — down the left sideline, that was stripped away at

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