Why us, Lord?
In a marathon matchup for the ages, the North Carolina Tar Heels begged the Virginia Tech Hokies to snatch a victory away from and, after over four hours of game play, the Hokies finally obliged. A game that UNC had multiple opportunities to win ended with victorious Hokies streaming onto the field.
UNC began the game as well as they have any contest this season: Michael Carter gashed the Hokies for 28 yards, then Howell nailed Dazz Newsome for a 47-yard TD. On the ensuing drive, Hokie starting QB Hendon Hooker fumbled the snap and UNC recovered in Hokie territory. But they would only come away with a field goal. VA Tech would eventually get on the board on a Hooker 55-yard pass to a wide open Tre Turner and a busted coverage by Carolina’s beleaguered secondary. The Heels mounted a touchdown drive of their own (a second TD for Newsome), but the rest of the half belonged to the Hokies, who made two touchdown drives to take a 21-17 lead into the break.
The third Hokie TD drive came on a pass from senior QB Ryan Willis, who came on for an injured Hooker late in the 2nd quarter. Hooker would not finish the game...nor would Willis. The Tar Heels would finish the game against third-stringer Quincy Patterson, the speedy true freshman who tortured Heels throughout the second half with his legs. He would finish the game with 122 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries.
In the 3rd Quarter, the Heels took the lead on an impressive 71 yard drive then recovered a Hokie fumble at midfield. They promptly turned it over on downs and VA Tech tied the game with a field goal (note the made field goal; it will be a rarity going forward). In the 4th, both teams struggled to deliver a knockout punch until UNC hit on a brilliant misdirection play that ended with a 68-yard strike to a wide-open Antoine Green (note the term “brilliant play” because it’ll be the last time I’ll be saying that). The Hokies answered right back with a Patterson 53-yard rushing TD to even the odds at 31 apiece. Neither team could get out of their own half after that and the game went to overtime.
And then another. And another. And...yeah you get the point.
Here’s the recap of the overtimes:
- First Overtime - The Tar Heels held VA Tech to a 38-yard field goal by Brian Johnson, then took over. The Heels overcame a brutal false start penalty on 3rd and 7 with a ferocious Javontae Williams run to give the Heels a new set of downs. Eventually they settled for a Noah Ruggles 29-yarder to tie at 34
- Second Overtime - UNC started with the ball, and Howell nearly threw it away in the end zone on 2nd and 8, then nailed Beau Corrales in the numbers for a touch catch through contact and a 41-34 lead. UNC had the Hokies down to 4th and 3, but Justin Fuentes went for it all and Patterson hit Damon Hazelton in the end zone for a tying TD, a play in which Greg Ross (who had a WOEFUL game) was not only beaten but committed a penalty.
- Third Overtime - The Heels seemed to once again have things in hand when Johnson missed a 41-yarder by inches, but on the Heels possession, Joshua Ezeudu committed a dreadful holding penalty that moved the ball from what would have been the Tech 7 to the 25. UNC managed to get Ruggles to within 35 yards, then Mack Brown inexplicably called time out and iced his own kicker. Fuente did the same moments later and Ruggle missed the gamewinning kick by inches.
- Fourth Overtime - The Heels had the ball again, were held to a 39-yard attempt that Ruggles made...after the play clock ran out (no one on the UNC sideline thought to take their one timeout). He was moved back and his 44-yard attempt was blocked. The Hokies had the game in their hands, but a false start penalty of their own moved Johnson to 41 yards...and HE missed.
- 5th Overtime - Under the new rules, the two teams debuted the new rule that after 5 extra periods, teams exchange 2-point conversion attempts (we should’ve known we were toast then...). VA Tech got it first and Storm Duck broke up a fade into the endzone. UNC got it and tried a toss to Michael Carter in space that was read all the way.
- 6th Overtime - Sam Howell dropped back to pass and, as became the theme for most of the second half and overtimes, ran around with no one to throw to before getting dropped. Quincy Patterson then ran in the game winning score for the Hokies. 43-41 final.
Sam Howell finished 26-49 for 348 yards and five touchdowns, breaking UNC’s freshman touchdown record in the process. He spent much of the game under pressure, with Tech’s pass rush frequently overwhelming UNC’s offensive line. Later in the game, the Hokie secondary locked down on UNC’s talented playmakers and Howell was given few options to hit down the stretch. Dazz Newsome was the star receiver, particularly in the first half, finishing with 112 yards and two touchdowns on nine receptions. Beau Corrales was also strong, making several key catches late in the game.
Much will be said about the over reliance on the passing game and this was not a big night for Carolina’s talented running backs. Michael Carter had 91 yards on 13 carries and Javontae Williams, while quiet most of the game came up with some big plays in crunch time.
On defense, the story of the day was UNC’s pass rush unable to get pressure to bolster an injury-plagued secondary. With Hooker out and Willis struggling, they managed to escape a truly embarrassing night against the pass with Quincy Patterson’s strength coming with his legs not his arm. That said, his 4th down pass to Hazelton was all guts. Myles Dorn had a strong game and Jason Strowbridge recovered a fumble, but for the most part, this was a step back for Jay Bateman’s defense, which didn’t look in control against ANY of the three Hokie quarterbacks.
I’ll leave the bulk of the coaching criticism to my betters, but suffice to say that Mack Brown, Phil Longo (who returns to the hot seat after today), and Jay Bateman all have a good bit to answer for. What started out as a strong display by an optimistic team ended in crushing disaster.
We will learn an awful lot about this team next weekend. You know who comes to town then...