UNC: 14 penalties for 121 yards. I could really stop right there and the analysis of this game would be pretty much done.
You know what happened? The same thing that always happens when you play Virginia Tech. Ugly happened. This has been the hallmark of Virginia Tech under Frank Beamer and that is somehow getting the opposing team to play downright ugly football. So screw the fact the Hokies have a horrid offense, when you get the other team to repeatedly impale themselves with penalties and turnovers, a proficient offense is not needed. The best way to describe Frank Beamer is the same way Iceman in Top Gun was described by Goose:
Wears you down. You get bored, do something stupid, and he's got you
Call Frank Beamer the Iceman because that is exactly what happened to UNC today. Playing Virginia Tech means you have to be able to hold your own while maintaining an incredibly wide margin of error. The Heels went up 17-3 and along the way still made some pretty crucial mistakes. Despite missing a FG and having a couple of penalties at the wrong time, UNC had a two touchdown lead. And given the atrocious nature of the Hokie offense, it was pretty clear that the VT points ceiling was 15-20 points. So all UNC had to do was play good defense and maybe post a few more points to take care of business. Neither happened.
The defense lost much of the discipline they had played with most of the game, committed a number of penalties to keep a VT touchdown drive moving despite stopping them twice on 3rd down and eventually wore down to the point the Hokies started popping off ten yard runs at will. However, even all of that was factored into playing Virginia Tech and still UNC was in position to still win the game, that is until TJ Yates got hurt. Now, losing Yates was not the sole reason the Heels could not close the deal but it seriously reduced the margin of error UNC was working in. In fact it was wiped out completely since it changed the dynamics of the UNC offense and not in a good way. Mike Paulus did the best he could but even when he managed to get the Heels down to the 24 with a chance to at least tie, he blew it by trying to do too much resulting in an interception. I question whether John Shoop should have called a few more short pass plays just to get Paulus comfortable however, those kind of plays may have been unavailable.
So where do we go from here? In a way this is progress being in position to win a game like this. UNC was generally very good for most of the game, showed a lot of confidence and played at a high level on defense. It turned out to be a bit short of what they needed to overcome the general ugliness that beleagures a team that lines up opposite the Hokies. UNC is still coming together as a football program and while the media was touting that UNC would make a major leap forward, it seems it will be a smaller step instead. This is not a problem in my mind after all, progress is still progress no matter how you slice it.
I never blame the officials for a loss and Virginia Tech has been very sucessful for many years playing football this way. That being said, are there any conclusions to be drawn from the fact VT enjoyed a huge penalty advatnage in this game? What is it about the way Virgnia Tech plays that causes the opposing team to get neck deep various penalties while somehow avoiding them on their side?