Now for a few more notes and quotes …
** Frank Beamer summed up his thoughts on the game like this, and Tech fans will probably agree with him on this take:
“I don’t think it’s time for excuses,” he said. “I think it’s time for results.
The results aren’t pretty. Virginia Tech is 3-3 after Saturday’s 48-34 loss to North Carolina, the earliest in a season the Hokies have had three losses since 1992. Tech went 2-8-1 that year, mind you.
“I never thought we would be considered an average team by any means,” cornerback Antone Exum said. “That’s not what we’re about.”
** I out-lined the defensive shortcomings in the game story, but here they are in bullet points:
- Tech gave up 533 yards, the second time it has given up more than 500 yards this year. The Hokies have given up 495 yards or more in losses to Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and now, North Carolina.
- 339 of those yards came on the ground. That’s the third-most against a Tech team under Beamer and the most by a team that wasn’t primarily running the option.
- Tar Heels tailback Giovani Bernard gashed the Hokies’ defense for 262 rushing yards, breaking the previous high by an individual against Tech, when Wake Forest’s Josh Harris ran for 241 yards in 2010. Bernard had 10 runs of 10 or more yards.
- The Tar Heels’ 48 points were the most the Hokies had allowed in a league game since joining the ACC, easily surpassing the 38 that Georgia Tech scored in 2006.
- UNC had never scored more than 24 points in any of the last eight meetings with Virginia Tech. It had 28 at halftime.
- UNC’s 48 points were the most by either team in the history of the series.
“I came to Virginia Tech because we’re known to play great defense,” defensive end James Gayle said. “I feel like we let the team down.”
The biggest problem? Missed tackles, which defensive coordinator Bud Foster called “pitiful.”
“We’re not making plays in space,” he said. “Our defense is designed to have a free hitter. And when you have your free hitter there, you’d like him to make a play. Right now we’re not making that play. We’re missing that and it’s going for big plays after that.”
“You say, ‘They’re minor things, they’re minor things,’” Exum said. “But too many minor things add up to something major.”
The game story essentially deals with the defensive problems, so read that.
** I will point out one crucial play that came in the second quarter, though. North Carolina had a fourth-and-one at its own 38 to start the second quarter. The Heels raced to the line and snapped it quickly.
Bernard basically ran off tackle for a 62-yard touchdown untouched, giving UNC a 21-14 lead.
Gayle said afterward that it was a look Tech hadn’t seen. Foster said that was nonsense.
“We had the defense in there and we had practiced that,” Foster said. “So that’s a copout. Just go execute. Just go perform.”
** What’s the mood in the locker room? Down? Angry?
“I think a little bit of both,” Exum said. “Guys are angry that we’re not performing as well as we should. We’re losing games. Kind of down and disappointed. But I think it’s my job as well as a couple others to be a leader, to stay upbeat, to stay confident and let the guys know that this isn’t the end. We’re going to keep continuing to fight, continuing to get better. We’ll get this thing together.”
** North Carolina won despite being flagged 15 times for 126 yards. Tech would have liked to have seen a few more thrown.
“I felt like they were holding all day today, to be honest,” Gayle said.
Foster noted Tech’s inability to keep leverage or make tackles in the open field, but couldn’t help but agree with Gayle.
“I saw a couple [holds] early,” he said. “There was one critical play on the first drive and their tackle made the best tackle of the day on Jack Tyler. We should use that as a guide and a technique for us, defensively.”
** Now, to the offense. The final stats don’t look bad, but the overall consistency of the group, particularly in the second half, was still a big shortcoming.
Quarterback Logan Thomas broke out of a season-long slump, throwing for a career-high 354 yards and two touchdowns. In a role reversal, he had to answer questions about what it was like for the defense not to hold up its end of the bargain.
“It’s tough,” Thomas said. “They’ve done it for us plenty of times. We understand.”
The Hokies took a step forward by scoring points in the first quarter for the first time in four weeks, racing down the field and getting into the end zone on a 13-yard run by Thomas, Tech’s first opening-drive touchdown this year.
Thomas had a solid game, completing 26 of 49 passes and hooking up with Marcus Davis and Corey Fuller on touchdowns of 50 and 63 yards, respectively, to keep the Hokies in the game.
Fuller had 143 yards on five catches, Demitri Knowles had 83 yards on six catches and Davis 66 yards on three catches.
“I thought our line did a terrific job handling them, giving me time to throw,” said Thomas, who was sacked once and threw one interception on a deep ball.
It was the most points for the Hokies in a losing effort since a 52-49 loss to California in the 2003 Insight Bowl.
** BUT, the running game was abysmal. Tech couldn’t establish the run, then abandoned it late when facing a huge deficit. The Hokies’ 40 rushing yards were the team’s fewest since the season opener in 2007 against East Carolina, when they had 33.
Thomas led the team with 20 rushing yards. Michael Holmes was the leading rusher with only 19 yards.
He lost a costly fumble early in the third quarter, having the ball ripped away by North Carolina linebacker Travis Hughes near midfield. The Tar Heels would capitalize with a touchdown, turning an eight-point lead into 15.
“The guy rips the ball out and a couple plays later, they’re in the end zone,” Beamer said, fixating on the play afterward. “Just big turnarounds.”
** Wide receiver Dyrell Roberts somehow held on to a pass on the Hokies’ first drive, having his helmet knocked off with an illegal hit by North Carolina’s Tim Scott. He stayed in but would ultimately leave with what was later diagnosed as a concussion.
Roberts played one more drive and had a critical error. A busted coverage left him open, streaking up the left sideline. Thomas zipped a pass right to him, but it went through his hands and bounced off his facemask on third down, leading to a punt.
Roberts left the game and had a towel over his head on the sideline. He changed into street clothes for the second half.
** North Carolina’s Sean Tapley returned a first quarter kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown, the first time a team has done so against Virginia Tech since Syracuse in 1993.
The Hokies had gone 237 games without giving up a kick return for a touchdown, what was the longest active streak in the country.
Virginia Tech answered later with a 93-yard kick return for a touchdown by Knowles, the first of his career. It was the Hokies’ second touchdown in the return game this year.
** Here are a few more dot, dot, dots …
- Virginia Tech had been 13-0 since joining the ACC in league road games in the state of North Carolina, including a 4-0 mark in Chapel Hill.
- Tech had won 23 straight road conference openers, a streak that dated back to its time in the Southern Conference.
- Thomas’ rushing touchdown in the first quarter was the 15th of his career, breaking a tie with Bruce Arians and moving him into fourth place on Virginia Tech’s career list for a quarterback. Michael Vick is up next, with 16.
- Antoine Hopkins started at defensive tackle alongside his brother, Derrick. It’s the first time they had started side-by-side since last year’s Clemson game, when Antoine tore his ACL.
- Running back Tony Gregory didn’t travel because of a knee injury. Linebacker Tariq Edwards did not make it because of a death in the family.
- Safety Michael Cole (Cave Spring) led the team with 11 tackles.
** Lastly, Foster put the gravity of the situation into context with this quote. I’m guessing no Virginia Tech fans would have thought this was an issue coming into the year.
“We’re 1-1 in the league on our side,” Foster said. “We’ve still got a lot to play for, with the meat of our schedule still ahead of us. We’ve got to play well just to make a bowl game.
“We’re going to take it one at a time. We can’t look beyond that. We’re going to play … one … game … at a time. One play at a time. One series at a time. One game at a time. That’s what we’ve got to get back to doing. Getting back to playing with passion, playing with trust, having trust in each other. I think that’s an issue a little bit right now from our side of it. I think guys are looking around rather than going and making a play.
“We’ve got to go earn our success. I think what’s happened over the years. We’ve got to be careful that we think it’s just going to happen. And how we’ve made it happen is we’ve earned it. There are teams that have probably been more talented than us in the past, but we out-willed them, out-efforted them, we out-fought them, whatever it may be. And we’ve got to get back to doing those things.”