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The Aftermath of the Hokies vs. Heels: The Downpour Drubbing

Or could we call it the Afterglow? I don’t know, but the sloppy wet Saturday contest between 17th ranked UNC and 25th ranked Virginia Tech didn’t go down the way most of the analysts thought. It wasn’t close. It was great defense. It was opportunistic offense. It was luck and it was some Beamer Ball in there, too. Hokies earn a convincing win on the road.

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NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at North Carolina
An Amped up post game crowd of wet Hokies
Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Hokies: 34 - Tar Heels: 3; think about that for just a second. Okay, so I predicted a Tech victory on Saturday. I really had confidence that the offense was capable of scoring some serious points against an above average to average Carolina defense. They aren’t awful, but they have allowed points and certainly have barely gotten the Tar Heels into position to win a couple of squeakers from behind (Pitt and FSU).

Well, I thought that Carolina would generate an offensive pulse. There isn’t much to say but; “call the crash cart!” Mitch Trubisky didn’t show up on Saturday. At least that’s what I was thinking about the time Andrew Motuapuaka came up with the 2nd interception, thus slamming the door on any possible UNC rally. I thought Larry Fedora would have been justified checking the guy’s ID.

Undoubtedly Carolina was seriously hurt by the weather. I never thought their running game was a primary threat. They could run the ball, but the numbers kept telling me that it wasn’t a consistent and primary threat for their offense. The Carolina game is slinging the rock around in that West Coast sort of spread it out and pitch it short and quick sort of action. The northwest edge of Hurricane Matthew put a big nix on that sort of offense.

Even normally accurate and efficient Jerod Evans had some serious difficulty getting the ball to someone who could hold on. He was 7 of 17, but of those seven were two touchdowns; a nice roll out one yard flip short seam to Chris Cunningham and nifty 22 yard seam splitter to Sam Rogers. Also in there was a nice strike to Bucky Hodges on a flag route to the 1 yard line that was almost a touchdown. If you want to see the specifics and the box scores, check out Yahoo Sports, there’s no point in spending an hour pasting stuff up and dressing excerpts.

That sort of gets ahead of some things, there was some seriously exciting, weird, and frustrating football played between those scores. The Tech opening drive stalled on some lethargic play calling and a fumble that Tech recovered. Then the Carolina opening drive stalled when they decided to go for it on 4th down, early, and failed to convert. The Hokie series went nowhere as well, and though Tech lined up to go for it on 4th and short, Greg Stroman quick kicked the ball for respectable yards.

With the ball on the UNC 7 following two incomplete passes and a five yard procedure penalty, who else but Greg Stroman steps in front of a sloppy out route pass and picks off Trubisky. Tech’s next few plays went not much of anywhere, but they were well within Joey Slye’s foot range (provided the snap worked and the holder got the ball down in such horrid conditions). Tech put 3 on the board and drew first blood.

The very next drive, UNC’s Khris Francis fumbled the ball and it was picked up by Terrell Edmunds on the UNC 39 yard line. Some fit and start running and a 16 yard pass to Cam Phillips (wearing #25 Saturday) got the ball to the Carolina 11. We won’t talk too much about Evans having to save the drive by recovering a bobbled ball. Joey came in to put another three points up on the board. Another exchange of punts back and forth, and a fumble by Tech gave a short field to Carolina near the 12:00 minute minute mark of the 2nd quarter. UNC managed only 24 yards on that short field drive and kicked a field goal from the Tech 11. That was as close as Carolina got the entire game once the scoring started.

Tech drove the ball all the way to the Carolina 7 yard line but a wickedly hard hit in the middle separated Evans from the ball. The Tech defense once again rose to the occasion and pushed the Tar Heels back 6 yards including missing sacking Trubisky for a safety. The ensuing punt from the back of the UNC end zone left Tech on the UNC 41 yard line and a ton of momentum. Evans eventually hit Bucky Hodges for that afore mentioned 28 yard out/flag pattern, and later hit Chris Cunningham for the game’s first touchdown.

The Heels took the kickoff for a touchback and stalled out after six plays and a punt from their own 36. Stroman didn’t return the ball, and the offense came out and took a knee. With the weather that bad and a 10 point lead in the bag, Tech didn’t take any chances on any further separations from the ball. Halftime would prove to be something different in Tech’s history book. Carolina was going to get the ball first in the second half. That meant something dangerous could happen.

Something really dangerous did happen in the opening drive of the second half. Carolina looked like it was beginning to get the hang of offense in the wet mess. After taking the touchback, they began executing nice quick slashing runs but then cracks started showing. They netted 15 penalty yards on two consecutive plays thereby getting themselves seriously behind the sticks. The 12 yard pass that followed Trubisky to Bug Howard looked like maybe UNC was going to get up off of the mat. That hope evaporated when Mitch Trubisky fumbled (whether a designed run or not is immaterial) and Woody Baron picked it up; rumbling down to the Carolina 22 yard line.

The Evans to Rogers “Take it to the House” magic happened on the next play from scrimmage. Rogers lined up in the close slot just behind the line of scrimmage. Carolina’s safety lost track of him while he ran a nice seam splitting from hash to hash where Evans hit him on the two. Sam took it the rest of the way in, and the Hokies really never looked back from there. That made the score 20-3 but what it also did was completely deflate the entire Carolina football team.

On the next series Tech unlimbered its rejuvenated Beamer Ball creds, and forced a badly handled punt snap by Carolina’s Tom Sheldon. He was tackled at the Carolina 4 yard line, and the next four plays resulted in a 4th down and 1 touchdown by Jerod Evans.

UNC would threaten to score just before the end of the 3rd quarter, after some bizarre and barely explainable punting mishaps by Tech and some fabulous momentum killing defensive stops by the #LPD and #DBU. In any case eventually Travon McMillian would put the ball across the Carolina goal line one more time, after a solid interception by Andrew Motuapuaka on the Carolina 29 yard line.

The rest is pretty much history. Brenden Motley came in, ran the offense well, didn’t make mistakes, and the Tech players ran to the stands to celebrate with the hearty souls of Hokie Nation who braved the elements and made it to Chapel Hill for the game. BTW you could hear the Hokie fans on the ESPN broadcast, along with the Pep Band, and it was definitely noticed by Coach Fuente and the players.

Well how the heck did we do this? The spread was 1.5 in favor of UNC. That was not much of a line for them given that most betting of relatively even teams starts at a home field advantage of 3 points. So how did Tech manage (even with the rain and goo induced drops, bad snaps, and slips) to wipe out a team like Carolina?

Positives for Tech:

  • Defense. There is no doubt about this defense, now. Bud Foster’s blood is flowing again. The Linebacker play from Edmunds and Motuapuaka was pure gold. Both Edmunds brothers were everywhere. Andrew was on the ball carrier before the ball carrier had the ball.
  • Defense. Carolina could not run the ball. They got a few yards here, and there. They made a few first downs, but overall they went nowhere in a hurry.
  • Defense. Turnovers. Two critical picks for 10 points. Several fumbles and bobbled snaps for short field drives for Tech. One of those going to Special Teams.
  • Defense. Ryan Switzer was not a factor in the football game. #DBU shut him down and out of the action. Yes, they succeeded in snuffing Isiah Ford, but we were running the ball and they weren’t.
  • BEAMER BALL… Special teams had some snap problems on punts, but Eric Gallo had some on the offensive line as well. What showed was the return game, not making mistakes with the ball and if there were bobbles getting back on it and not losing it. Of course Joey nailing two field goals to open the scoring in a critical situation was noteworthy.
  • Offense. Jerod Evans ran the ball well. He took smart choices in the passing game and threw the ball away instead of getting it picked. He ran the team on the field and kept his head and the heads of his teammates in the game, especially in the 1st and early 2nd quarters when things were starting to break down a bit.
  • Offense. We scored in the red zone every time except one, and the defense rallied to stop that momentum by getting the ball back after a 6 yard loss three and out on the UNC 1 yard line.
  • Luck. Sometimes luck is its own star player. The ball more often not bounced our way, and the team was prepared to make that luck stick.
  • Luck. Carolina star running back Elijah Hood (corrected10/10: ed) was out. This may or may not have been critical for the UNC offense, but his being out was definitely something that the Tech defense didn’t have to worry about as much.

There were some things that we just flat out got away with; the two Carolina drives that died off with no points or only 3 points instead of 7. The second blown punt snap when the ball sailed passed Mitchell Ludwig but he had the presence of mind to go get it, notice that there was no real pressure and get off a decent kick, anyway. There were the bad snaps by Gallo – not necessarily bad quality but definitely at the wrong time – and only losing one of them. Sometimes it truly is better to be lucky than good. Though coaches will tell you that preparation and fundamentals account for most of your luck, we’ll just split the difference.

Anyway, this win was that signature win Just take a look at this weekend’s early winner/loser and summary stories from USA TODAY.

Tech was a big winner this weekend. We signed a football by beating UNC in their house by a blowout score in horrid weather. Okay folks. That was then. Syracuse is now. We’ll be talking about this one for a while, but I bet the coaching staff has already dried off, gotten on the busses and reminded the players that Syracuse is next week. Funny, the Beamer Barn might be the perfect practice venue for the game. Isn’t it almost as big as the Carrier Dome? Remember Donovan McNabb… that’s all that I’ll have to say about that.