CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — It has been a shootout through one half at Kenan Stadium, and North Carolina has the bigger weapons so far.
The Tar Heels took a 28-20 lead into halftime against the Hokies, getting 115 passing yards from Bryn Renner and 101 rushing yards from Giovani Bernard.
The Hokies (3-2, 1-0 ACC) got 144 passing yards, 27 rushing yards and two total touchdowns from quarterback Logan Thomas, but the defense, which forced three-and-outs its first three times on the field, gave up scoring drives of 59, 86 and 76 yards.
The Hokies avoided the slow start that’s plagued them all year, getting a three-and-out on defense before moving 57 yards on four plays and getting into the end zone on a 13-yard Thomas run. It was Virginia Tech’s first opening drive touchdown this year and its first points in the first quarter since the Austin Peay game four weeks ago.
North Carolina came right back with a 94-yard kickoff return for a touchdown by Sean Tapley to tie the game at 7. It was the first kick return for a touchdown the Hokies had allowed since 1993, snapping a 237-game streak that had been the longest active streak in the NCAA.
Another special teams gaffe cost the Hokies later in the first quarter. J.R. Collins jumped offsides as UNC was lining up for a field goal. The penalty gave the Tar Heels a first down, and Renner capitalized with a 4-yard touchdown run to make it 14-7.
Virginia Tech answered with a 49-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to Marcus Davis near the end of the first quarter to tie it at 14.
UNC started the second quarter in grand fashion, catching the Hokies off guard with a quick snap on fourth-and-one. Bernard ran off tackle untouched for a 62-yard touchdown and 21-14 lead.
After a 40-yard field goal by Cody Journell cut the lead to three, UNC drove the length of the field and went ahead 28-17 on A.J. Blue’s 1-yard touchdown run.
After Bernard muffed a punt, Tech drove down the field to get a 35-yard field goal by Journell to cut the lead to 28-20 heading into the locker room.
UNC out-gained Tech 239 to 189 in the first half. The Hokies had only 45 rushing yards, just 16 coming from Michael Holmes, their leading rusher of the tailbacks.
Thomas was 13-for-22 in the first half. Davis was his favorite target, with three catches for 66 yards.