North Carolina enjoyed an off-season filled with dark horse playoff buzz, but Virginia Tech fulfilled those aspirations from an early kickoff Friday night with a 17-10 victory over the crowd at Lake Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia.
“The shine is definitely off,” UNC coach Mac Brown said of the tenth-ranked Tar Heels. “Ratings don’t make sense at the moment. We got evaluated tonight.”
Brown said he expected a tough attack from the Hawkeyes but was disappointed with how his team responded.
Virginia Tech went 75 yards for a touchdown on its opening drive, faltered after a 56-yard drive and scored again on its third drive to take a 14-0 lead. Meanwhile, the Hawkeyes ’defense in the first half completely ignited the offense of Sam Howell and Tar Heels and put on a series of big plays in the final stages to win.
Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said: “We put them back in the second half. “We couldn’t put the game aside and the defensive chances kept growing. It was an impressive performance as I saw it. It was incredible. It was really impressive to keep answering the bell in the second half.”
The UNC lost four stars last season for offense – tailbacks Michael Carter and Javante Williams, and receivers Dami Brown and Daz Newsom – but Brown was excited for the next group of skill spot players. Instead, Tar Heels saw frequent missteps from their receivers and tight ends, and the offensive line – considered a strength – struggled during the crowd without a Virginia Tech pass.
Brown said he learned a little about who could be ready to play at a higher level but expressed frustration that his line did not give Hyzam, a pre-season Hisman Trophy contestant, a chance to do many plays.
“When you don’t run the ball well and you have six bags and you have to run for your life,” Brown said, “we have to do a better job of protecting him. You can’t expect a kid to be so good when the whole game is around him.” Game. You have to defend your quarterback. “
Howell completed 32 of 17 for 208 yards and touchdowns. Receiver Josh Downs had 123 yards and a TD, but the rest of the receiving corps struggled to get an open downfield. Beau Corales and Khafre Brown were without veterans in the UNC game.
Howell later said the loss should not exceed North Carolina’s season expectations, but he acknowledged the team did not play well.
“We can’t let this game define us,” Howell said. “We know what this team is capable of, even though we didn’t show it tonight. I think we just lost [tonight]. I don’t think the pressure on the event bothered anyone and our week went well. Practice. , And we weren’t just a good team. “
- UNC has lost 11 games since Brown’s return before the season. Touchdown or less was the ninth loss.
On the other side of the field, Virginia Tech dispelled questions and hot-seat rumors surrounding Fuente for a dynamic performance.
QB Braxton Burmester completed 12 of 19 passes with a TD and ran for another 53 yards and a score. The Hookies’ defense was exceptional, ending with six sacks and three interceptions, with Chamor Connor lifting the Nifty to seal the victory in Howell’s final round.
For Fuente, it was a statement win. Virginia Tech lost a Bowl game for the first time since 1992, and the Falcons were on the verge of losing their jobs before the Hawkeyes beat rivals Virginia last season. Instead, athletic director Vit Babcock decided to retain Fuente, but at the post-season press conference, he presented a series of items Fuente needed to stay for the event beyond 2021.
Friday’s victory was a blow to a fan who was hoping for change.
Fuente said, “No one thought we could win for a game that most people have sacrificed for a group, which makes me really proud to play.”
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