BeamerBall was happening. Lane Stadium was rocking. Virginia Tech fans could sense it: a third-down stop in overtime and then, in the most fitting BeamerBall ending possible, a blocked field goal attempt in overtime for a walk-off victory.
What a way it would be to thank Frank Beamer for putting Virginia Tech football on the map.
But North Carolina had other ideas. Quinshad Davis held onto a Marquise Williams pass on third down for a 5-yard touchdown as the 17th-ranked Tar Heels, who had squandered a 14-point lead in the final eight minutes of regulation, prevailed 30-27 to clinch the ACC Coastal Division.
A Tar Heels team that began the season with an unsightly loss to South Carolina in Charlotte has now won 10 consecutive games. It will return to Charlotte on Dec. 5 to face No. 1 Clemson in the ACC title game. A win there, and who knows?
It didn't figure to be easy Saturday during Beamer's emotional sendoff in Blacksburg, Virginia. Virginia Tech needed a win to extend its nation-long bowl streak to 23 seasons. Bud Foster's defense came to play, as it has so often during Beamer's tenure, in limiting Williams (13-of-26 passing) and an explosive offense.
In the end, Virginia Tech needed more offense of its own against a Gene Chizik-led defense that has fueled North Carolina's renaissance this fall. The Hokies were held to a field goal in overtime and mustered only 10 points in the first 52 minutes. The Heels received big performances from linebacker Shakeel Rashad, defensive tackle Nazair Jones, defensive end Mikey Bart and others. Chizik's hiring continues to be one of the best and most overlooked moves of the past offseason.
North Carolina was in total control after converting consecutive turnovers into fourth-quarter touchdowns to take a 24-10 lead with 7:56 to play. But Virginia Tech's offense finally came alive on a 63-yard scoring drive. Then the normally sure-handed Tar Heels fumbled, and Virginia Tech converted for the tying score on a fourth-down touchdown pass from Michael Brewer to Isaiah Ford.
It wasn't enough as the efficiency that defined Virginia Tech (5-6) during most of Beamer's tenure didn't turn up until late. The Hokies committed three turnovers and had a punt blocked and were flagged six times, including a call on senior defensive lineman Dadi Nicolas for smacking referee Ron Cherry's arm after Cherry signaled an offside penalty.
What the win means for North Carolina: A double-digit victory would have been more impressive to the CFP selection committee, but expect the Heels to still rise in this week's rankings. Ten consecutive wins should mean something, no matter the league or the division, and UNC has no business being slotted behind five two-loss teams, including Florida State, which has a loss (Georgia Tech) just as bad or worse than North Carolina's single setback to South Carolina. No one is blown away with the ACC Coastal division, but few teams have performed as well as North Carolina in the past two months. It would take chaos in multiple leagues for the Heels to have a chance for the playoff, but they moved a step closer today.
What the loss means for Virginia Tech: The Hokies need to beat Virginia on the road to prolong Beamer's coaching career and his record bowl streak. Offensive inconsistency has been an issue during the latter part of Beamer's tenure, and it showed up again Saturday. The Hokies averaged just 2.8 yards per rush and converted 6 of 17 third-down opportunities. Brewer's presence at quarterback makes a difference, but the offense rarely shows much flair.
Unsung hero: North Carolina's defense carried most of the game, but the Heels received a nice lift from running back Elijah Hood, who finished with 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 17 carries. With Williams struggling at times, UNC needed Hood to come through, and he delivered.
Stat of the game: Teams rarely win when committing three turnovers on the road and converting just 4 of 14 third-down opportunities, but North Carolina found a way thanks to its defense, which forced three second-half turnovers.