NCF Nation: Hokies-Heels-111310

Hokies looking ahead, not back

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
8:50
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer has usually been one to support the current BCS system.

“This particular year,” he said with a smile, “a playoff wouldn’t be bad.”

After two losses to start the season, there’s nothing Virginia Tech can do to change its fate in the national picture. The Hokies are doing everything imaginable, though, to redeem themselves and change the perception of them after their 0-2 start.

With its 26-10 road win over North Carolina, Virginia Tech has now won eight straight games. The Hokies have left no doubt they are the best team in the ACC, even if the watered-down conference isn’t giving them any ranked competition. They are the only team still undefeated in conference play heading into Saturday’s game at Miami, and with a two-game lead in the division, are heading towards the best-case scenario: their third appearance in the ACC title game in the past four years.

[+] EnlargeTyrod Taylor
Bob Donnan/US PresswireVirginia Tech has had much to celebrate since dropping its first two games of the season.
“I think we’re getting to be a really good football team right now,” Beamer said. “At the beginning of the year, we were just a little too young to be a real, good, consistent football team. Too young.”

Consistency over the long haul, though, is the one thing that has separated Beamer’s program from the rest of the pack. Virginia Tech is now 44-10 in conference games since joining the ACC in 2004, including a 22-5 road record. The Hokies are 22-2 in November games since 2004 (20-2 against the ACC).

They’re even dependable in slow starts and fast finishes. The Hokies have come from behind to win four times this season. Virginia Tech trailed 10-9 at the half on Satudrday, but outgained the Tar Heels 141-19, and outscored them 17-0 in the third quarter.

If there was any benefit to the way the season started for this team, it’s that Virginia Tech learned a lesson: Not to get complacent. Despite its control of the Coastal Division, the Hokies did not clinch the title on Saturday because Miami beat Georgia Tech. Though unlikely, it's still possible Virginia Tech can close the season with two losses to Miami and Virginia, leaving the Hurricanes atop the Coastal Division.

“I don’t think there’s a time when you can get comfortable because when you’re comfortable, that’s the time when you’re most vulnerable of getting beat,” said linebacker Bruce Taylor. “I feel good with the lead we have. It’s in our control. If we win out, we’re in the ACC championship game. It’s in our hands. That’s the fun part about it. Everyone is going to give us their best shot, that’s what I love, playing against the best competition.”

Sure, quarterback Tyrod Taylor said, he thinks about what could have been had the Hokies won their first two games. But he said he spends more time thinking about the possibilities that still remain -- an ACC title and Orange Bowl win.

“I think that we’re playing at a high level right now, and as long as we continue to play that way, people will eventually respect it,” he said. “Some people won’t. All we can do is go out there and win games every week. It’s your choice if you’re going to respect us or not.”

It’s hard not to considering how well the Hokies played against a gritty North Carolina team that refuses to quit. The Tar Heels were without leading rusher Johnny White, and a plethora of other injured players, but so were the Hokies. Virginia Tech missed a lot of speed without David Wilson and Dyrell Roberts on the field, and they likely lost another kick returner, Tony Gregory, for the season with a knee injury.

The Hokies were also without starting defensive end Chris Drager, and yet the defense shut out North Carolina in the second half. Standout receiver Dwight Jones, who had 28 catches for 612 yards and three touchdowns in the past four games, was held to just one catch.

North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates, who had thrown four interceptions all season entering the game, threw four against the Hokies. Prior to facing Virginia Tech, UNC had not turned the ball over more than three times in a game. They gave it up six times to Bud Foster’s defense.

There’s not much more Virginia Tech could have done over the past 10 weeks -- or against UNC -- to prove it’s a different team than the one that started the season.

“I think a key factor is having great kids,” Beamer said. “I’ve said that a bunch, but I really mean it. I think if you’ve got bad guys on your team, they just fall apart when you have two tough losses in a week. … It wasn’t even a whole week. Two losses that stay with you. I think our leadership, our kids, they went right back to work and here we are. I’m proud of what we accomplished.”

And he should be -- even if the BCS isn’t going to recognize it.

Heather Dinich talks with the Hokies' quarterback after the win against North Carolina.
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Despite Miami's win over Georgia Tech earlier today, nothing has changed in the Coastal Division -- Virginia Tech is still the team to beat. The Hokies pulled away in the second half for a 26-10 win over North Carolina and extended their winning streak to eight games.

The Tar Heels, on the other hand, will have to settle for a bowl game this year, not a title game, after too many turnovers proved costly Saturday night. I'm heading down to postgame interviews now, so check back later for more.

Off night for UNC stars

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
6:45
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Over the past four games, UNC receiver Dwight Jones has had 28 receptions for 612 yards and three touchdowns, an average of 21.9 yards per catch. Tonight? Nada. Zip.

And quarterback T.J. Yates entered this game with a total of four interceptions this season. Tonight? He's got three.

A new star has emerged in Anthony Elzy, but he can't do it alone -- especially when he's barely touching the ball in the third quarter.

Hokies separating from Tar Heels

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
6:20
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- In the first half, it was impossible to tell who was the best team in the ACC. It certainly didn't look like Virginia Tech.

Now, as the Hokies lead 26-10 late in the third quarter, they have continued to remind us that their forte is making comebacks. If Virginia Tech hangs onto this lead, it will be the fifth time the Hokies have trailed this year and the fourth time they have won -- not including their 0-2 start to the season.

The difference in this half has been Virginia Tech's defense, lack of production from Anthony Elzy, the Hokies' ability to score touchdowns in the red zone, and receiver Marcus Davis. Davis has four catches for 81 yards and two touchdowns.

Bud Foster's D just good enough

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
6:06
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Few defenses in the country have been as consistently good as Virginia Tech's has under coordinator Bud Foster, but this season, the Hokies are just good enough.

They've earned a bend-but-don't-break reputation, but in typical Foster fashion still find ways to make game-changing plays. They did it last week in the win against Georgia Tech, intercepting Tevin Washington in the end zone on the Jackets' final play of the game, and they're doing it again here tonight against UNC quarterback T.J. Yates. The Hokies have two interceptions tonight, Anthony Elzy hasn't gone anywhere in the second half, and James Gayle, who is filling in for injured starting defensive end Chris Drager, sacked Yates. It's those kinds of plays that are still trademarks of the Hokies' defense.

Marcus Davis answers the call

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
5:46
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- With Virginia Tech receiver Dyrell Roberts out with a thigh injury, the Hokies needed somebody else to step up at receiver, and on the Hokies' first drive of the second half, Marcus Davis rose to the occasion to give Virginia Tech their first lead and first touchdown of the game.

The Hokies are up 16-10 thanks in large part to the big-play capabilities of Davis, a young, talented player whose best is yet to come. He took a screen pass down the left sideline for 46 yards, thanks to a nice block by Danny Coale, and he capped the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass. It was the first time tonight the Hokies were able to get into the end zone once inside the 20.

Halftime: UNC 10, VT 9

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
5:22
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Here's a quick review of the first half here in Kenan Stadium:

Stat of the half: Three trips into the red zone for Virginia Tech, three field goals. The Hokies got as close as UNC's 17-yard line three times but weren't able to get into the end zone. It's out of character for Virginia Tech, which entered this game scoring touchdowns 64 percent of the time it's inside the 20.

Best player in the half: UNC running back Anthony Elzy. Filling in for injured starter Johnny White in his first career start, Elzy took over the running game and showcased his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield. He had 10 carries for 65 yards and a team-high six catches for 74 yards.


What UNC needs to do: Continue to pressure quarterback Tyrod Taylor. He's been sacked twice, but there have also been times when he's had all day to throw and hasn't had to scramble. Fortuantely for the Heels, he hasn't always been spot on.

What Virginia Tech needs to do: Convert in the red zone, cut down the penalties and stop Elzy. The Hokies have seven penalties for 41 yards already. They also need to improve their 3-of-8 third-down conversion stat.

One step forward, another back for VT

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
4:57
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Just when it looks like Virginia Tech is capable of breaking this game open, the Hokies take a step back, which is why they trail 10-9 late in the first half. Virginia Tech came up with two big plays -- an interception in the end zone by Eddie Whitley and a 43-yard pass on third-and-17 on the ensuing scoring drive.

But instead of scoring a touchdown, Virginia Tech settled for its third field goal of the game because quarterback Tyrod Taylor fired a bullet over the head of Danny Coale in the back of the end zone. The Hokies have gotten as close as the 17-yard line, 15-yard line and 8-yard line and have settled for field goals.

If that keeps up, they'll also have to settle for their first ACC loss.

Anthony Elzy beating VT

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
4:34
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- UNC running back Anthony Elzy -- a player who has flip-flopped between fullback and tailback and had 40 total rushing yards last year -- has at times single-handedly beat Virginia Tech's defense. He has 65 rushing yards and 48 receiving yards, and has been instrumental in the Tar Heels' 10-6 lead. Not only does Elzy deserve credit for rising to the occasion when the Tar Heels needed him to most, but it also raises more questions about the Hokies' defense, particularly up front.

Hokies hurting in the red zone

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
4:17
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- On Virginia Tech's first possession, it had a dropped pass around the 5-yard line. This time around, it was on the UNC 15-yard line when Virginia Tech was called for a delay-of-game penalty. The teams in the Coastal Division are closer than Virginia Tech's two-game lead in the standings might indicate. The score here -- UNC 7, Virginia Tech 6 -- is a more accurate reflection of just how tight this race really is. If the Hokies are going to keep their cushion, they've got to start converting these field goals into touchdowns.

Typical start for Hokies -- slow

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
4:14
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Virginia Tech has trailed in four games this year and won three of them. They're on a similar path today. For the most part, Virginia Tech's offensive line has been fending off the Tar Heels and giving Tyrod Taylor plenty of time to throw. But on a drive that went as far as UNC's 22-yard line, the Hokies went backwards with an eight-yard sack, a 10-yard holding penalty and a blatant drop by Jarrett Boykin around the five yard line. Fortunately for Virginia Tech, kicker Chris Hazley has a strong, accurate leg and was able to make a 52-yard field goal. Hokies trail 7-3.

No Johnny White? No problem

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
3:52
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - It didn't take long for UNC running back Anthony Elzy to take over for injured leading rusher Johnny White.

The Tar Heels took the 7-0 lead on an opening drive that went 80 yards on eight plays, and Elzy accounted for 42 of those yards. He had three carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 28. The depth at tailback was one of UNC's biggest questions heading into this game, but if there was any doubt Elzy could carry the load today, it should be gone now. The question is how long it will take Bud Foster's defense to adjust to it.

Pregame observations

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
3:05
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- North Carolina running back Shaun Draughn was running around during warm-ups catching passes and taking hand-offs, despite a nagging ankle injury. He didn't look in pain, but that doesn't mean he's not. He went over to Anthony Elzy, who is expected to start, and gave him an encouraging shake on the shoulder pads.

There are no lineup changes for Virginia Tech. For UNC, backup defensive tackle Jared McAdoo will get his first career start at left defensive end, and freshman Jabari Price will start over Mywan Jackson at corner.

UNC tailback situation update

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
2:29
PM ET
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. -- Anthony Elzy will start at tailback, Shaun Draughn will go out in warm-ups and see how much he can do despite his ankle injury, and Hunter Furr will be the first man off the bench. Ryan Houston is dressed, but he's not expected to play.

Many UNC fans are walking around Kenan Stadium wearing T-shirts that read "I support Butch." An airplane trailing the sign "Supportbutchdavis.com" also flew by.

Most coaches have their fans' support when they're winning, and so far -- despite a total of 31 players missing at least one game this year because of either injuries or the NCAA investigation -- Butch Davis has managed to win six games and stay in the hunt for the Coastal Division title.

Today will determine if the Tar Heels can continue their success without injured leading rusher Johnny White against a Virginia Tech team that is still undefeated in league play. I'm waiting for word on the status of Houston and Draughn. I'll post it as soon as I get it.

There's obviously a lot of interest here in the outcome of the Miami-Georgia Tech game, as a Georgia Tech win will help the Hokies clinch the Coastal title with a win over UNC here.

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