This game was a mixed bag of penalties, missed opportunities on the offensive end and more of that suspect pass defense. In some respects it wasn't horrible(especially using last week as a measure) but it wasn't good enough to win and certainly not good enough to keep a bad offense out of the end zone.
The Tar Heels started out well enough on defense forcing two punts on the first two Virginia Tech possessions. Then the Hokies began taking advantage of the Heels' pass defense. Virginia Tech jumped out to a 7-0 lead on a 45-yard pass from Logan Thomas to Demetri Knowles with Knowles getting behind two UNC defenders and finding himself wide open in the end zone. After a UNC three and out, Virginia Tech continued the air assault converting on 3rd and long twice with the latter resulting in a touchdown pass from Thomas to D.J. Coles. At this point, UNC had done a fair job stopping the Hokies' run but Thomas routinely found receivers open and incomplete passes were often the fault of him or his receivers rather than anything UNC did.
On the offensive side of the ball, Bryn Renner was unable to start due to an ankle injury putting the burden of facing a top ten defense in his first collegiate start on Marquise Williams. Frankly speaking, Williams wasn't bad all things considered. It did take him some time to get his feet with the first quarter being a pretty shaky affair. After the Hokies second touchdown, Williams directed a ten play, 75-yard drive to cut the lead in half. During that drive Quinshad Davis had a 40-yard reception and Eric Ebron went up high to haul in a touchdown pass. It was the first drive of the game the coaching staff let Williams pass more and it went rather well.
Then came the first of many missed opportunities and one utterly inexcusable defensive play. The Heels forced a three and out after moving the ball into Hokie territory, the drive stalled. UNC punts and does a tremendous job of downing the ball on Virginia Tech two yard line pinning the Hokies deep. Then Tre Boston happened. Hokies' WR D.J. Coles rolled past Boston and caught an 83-yard bomb to set the Hokies up in the red zone. Virginia Tech would later punch it in for a 21-7 lead. Williams threw his first interception of the season on the subsequent possession and the Heels trailed 14 at halftime.
The second half was basically a push. UNC did a better job on defense stopping Virginia Tech though the quality of the Hokie offense may be more of a factor there than what the Heels did. On offense, it was difficult for the Heels to get traction not to mention penalties continue plague UNC at key moments. One of those came early in the second half when Ryan Switzer returned a punt for a touchdown only to have it called back on a block in the back penalty. It is the third time in as many weeks UNC has seen a penalty takes a touchdown off the scoreboard. UNC did manage a field goal midway through the 3rd quarter but really needed a touchdown to have a chance. The punt return being wiped out and only getting a field goal kept the Hokies in control.
Given the caliber of the Hokies defense, any sort of two possession lead is tough to overcome. UNC's last, best chance was on 4th and 1 at the Hokie 33-yard line when a play action pass from Williams was picked off by Kyle Fuller. The play was a good call but the pass under thrown. UNC responded by getting a stop but Switzer muffed the punt giving the ball back to the Hokies on the UNC 17. Virginia Tech found the end zone for a fourth time to effectively seal the game. A late touchdown from UNC was too little, too late to really matter except in the final margin. However it was the first time all season the Hokies have given up a fourth quarter score. In fact the only interesting thing to happen down the stretch of this game was the total stupidity of recently returned TE/LB Jack Tabb who threw a punch after the kickoff. Tabb was ejected his first game since violating team rules and apparently decided to apologize on Twitter as soon as he got to the locker room.
On the day, Marquise Williams played well, especially given he was facing a stellar defense. WIlliams was 23-35 for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran for 56 yards and was not sacked. The running game is still a problem though freshman T.J. Logan made his first appearance of the season. Logan showed some flashes as to why he might be a solid running back getting 25 yards on five carries.
UNC now gets twelve days before facing Miami on Thursday night in Chapel Hill. Presumably Bryn Renner will be healthy then and yes, twelve days is plenty of time for the message boards and media to get a good old fashioned quarterback controversy cooking.Whatever happens, North Carolina will continue to struggle as long as basic execution on the "little things" is a problem.