Before you read the rest of these notes, be sure to check out the game story first (the updated version with quotes should be up soon). It is mostly about the offensive success the Hokies had in the first half.
Now for some more post-game notes and quotes, with a little bit of some different formatting to hopefully make it easier to read:
Williams surprise starter for Renner
North Carolina was coy all week about whether or not quarterback Bryn Renner would play after he suffered a foot injury last Saturday.
So when did Virginia Tech know that backup Marquise Williams would start in his place?
“We found out when he ran out on the field,” Hokies head coach Frank Beamer said.
Williams, who the Hokies recruited hard back in 2011, made his first career start for the Tar Heels and did well, going 23-for-35 for 277 yards and two touchdowns.
Renner, who had started 29 straight games, tested his foot in pre-game but couldn’t go.
“He was throwing the ball fine, but he wasn’t really mobile enough to play,” UNC head coach Larry Fedora said. “He wasn’t mobile enough to protect himself.”
Williams’ mobility, and the read option that UNC used from it, proved to be something different for the Hokies to deal with. The sophomore ran 18 times to lead the Tar Heels with 56 yards.
“It’s a real change,” Beamer said. “Sometimes you change quarterbacks and it’s not really a big deal.”
The Hokies did some prep work this week in case Williams played. UNC finished with 376 yards, the most by a Virginia Tech opponent this year, but much of that came late when the Hokies already had a 17-point lead.
They also picked him off twice. Kyshoen Jarrett intercepted a deep ball at the end of the first half and Kyle Fuller made a play on a fourth-down pass in the fourth quarter. The Hokies have 13 picks this year, tying last year’s total.
“I will say that they are going to be one of the best defenses in the country,” Fedora said. “I can tell you that right now. … They have nine returning starters, a chemistry, a bond. They have that mojo going.”
As expected, senior cornerback Antone Exum was in street clothes on the sideline Saturday.
Exum was cleared to practice earlier this week after eight months of rehab following February knee surgery, but he decided Friday to take more time to get back in game shape.
“I knew he would make the right decision of when he wants to come back,” Fuller said. “I know he wants to get back. We thought it was here. He knows his body the best.”
Exum did not target a return date. The Hokies host Pittsburgh next week before getting a bye.
Freshman Brandon Facyson started in Exum’s place and finished with four tackles and a pass breakup.
Wide receiver Willie Byrn’s 83-yard catch in the second quarter was the seventh-longest in Virginia Tech’s modern history.
It was the Hokies’ longest since Marcus Davis’ 85-yarder in last year’s Pittsburgh game. It was the third-longest non-scoring play in Tech history.
Byrn, who was limited in practice this week with a knee injury, was caught from behind short of the end zone, however.
“I wish he didn’t have a little bit of a rusty wheel or he would have scored,” quarterback Logan Thomas joked.
“If I was healthy, it would have been an extension of the goal line, and I would have gotten it,” said Byrn, who caught some flak from his teammates. “That’s what I’m saying.”
Etched in the record books
I mentioned this in the game story but thought I’d break it out here too: With a first quarter completion, Thomas moved past Tyrod Taylor on Virginia Tech’s career passing list with 7,308 yards. He’s now third on the Hokies’ career passing touchdown list with 45, three shy of Bryan Randall’s school record.
“The NFL, they’re going to take that guy,” Beamer said. “If I was there, I guarantee I’d be taking him.”
Thomas’ three passing touchdowns Saturday matched a career high. His 293 passing yards were the fourth-highest total of his career.
Different o-line looks, little success running
Redshirt freshman Alston Smith, who switched from defensive to offensive line earlier this year, got his first action at left guard, coming in when Caleb Farris slid inside for David Wang during a third quarter series.
The Hokies also used a jumbo package late, with Mark Shuman coming in at left tackle and Jonathan McLaughlin going to the right side of the line as a tight end. Trey Edmunds scored Tech’s lone rushing touchdown behind that line.
Overall, though, the running game struggled. The Hokies finished with 48 rushing yards, the third time this season they’ve been held to under 60 in a game (53 at East Carolina, 55 at Georgia Tech).
Edmunds led the backs with 14 carries for 27 yards. J.C. Coleman had eight carries for 26 yards.
“I just feel like teams are starting to prepare for the run game and are stacking more guys in the box,” Edmunds said. “And that’s allowing holes to close up faster. But the advantage to us is our passing game is developing.”
It contributed to a third quarter in which Tech only gained 13 yards, going three-and-out on all three of its possessions. The Hokies had only 64 total yards in the second half.
The blocking wasn’t great, something not helped by the absence of fullback Sam Rogers, who suffered what appeared to be a leg injury on a reception in the first half.
“We had to run out of some sets we didn’t want to,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said. “But we had to adjust. That third quarter made me disappointed as a coach, but we have to re-evaluate it and try to make it better.”
A bit of a fracas
North Carolina tight end Jack Tabb was ejected late in the game for throwing a punch at Virginia Tech defensive end Tyrel Wilson. It came after the Hokies made a tackle on a kickoff.
Both teams’ players started jawing at each other in the altercation.
“I think Tyrel’s helmet came off and I don’t know what happened right then,” Beamer said. “But I saw the guy come back and swing at Tyrel. That’s all I know.”
A few Virginia Tech coaches were yelling across the field about it at North Carolina’s sideline.
“We don’t need to be doing that,” Beamer said. “Let the officials handle that situation and let’s play football. We don’t need to be screaming at each other.”
– The Hokies announced a sellout crowd of 65,632, their first in three home games this year.
– A.J. Hughes had a 46.1-yard average on six punts, the highest single-game total in his career.
– Cody Journell had an extra point blocked. It was the third straight game he’s missed at least one kick.
– Receiver D.J. Coles caught two touchdown passes Saturday. He has 11 catches this year. Five have been touchdowns.
– UNC’s touchdown by Quinshad Davis with 1:09 to play was the first points Virginia Tech’s defense has allowed in the fourth quarter this season.
– Linebackers Tariq Edwards and Jack Tyler led the way with 11 tackles apiece. Luther Maddy and Wilson each had a sack.
– The Hokies succeeded again in keeping an up-tempo opponent from cranking things up. Tech won the time of possession battle 30:38 to 29:22. UNC ran 73 plays to the Hokies’ 62.
Virginia Tech hosts Pittsburgh in a noon game next Saturday. The Hokies are 2-0 in ACC play, a half game up on Miami (1-0) and the Panthers (2-1) in the Coastal Division.
Pittsburgh has won four straight against Virginia Tech going back to 2001, including a 35-17 rout by the Panthers last year in Heinz Field when the Hokies were unbeaten and ranked 13th nationally.