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October 2, 2013

UNC-Va. Tech Capsule

Football Preview

After suffering a stinging loss to ECU last week, UNC has a tough task ahead of them as they head into Blacksburg to take on the Virginia Tech Hokies in their second game in ACC play this weekend.

Larry Fedora made an excellent point on his radio show this week. The Tar Heel coach said that if his team isn't careful they could lose twice to the Pirates if they don't play Virginia Tech with their full focus.

Not that a game with Virginia Tech is easy to take lightly in the first place. They have one of the more historically good programs in all the ACC and currently sit at the top of the coastal division standings.

Without further ado, let's take a look at some key things to watch for this week's match-up.

Bryn Renner's Health

The always dependable Bryn Renner suffered a left foot injury late in the game against ECU.

There was some doubt this week as to whether he would be able to go against Virginia Tech---the Tar Heels gave back-up quarterback Marquise Williams a lot of first team reps this week---before it was announced on Wednesday that Renner would in fact be a able to start.

"I'm going to let the trainers handle it (my ankle), just take it one practice at a time and I plan on playing Saturday," Renner said on Monday.

Renner won't be the only quarterback working through a foot injury Saturday, as Virginia Tech's Logan Thomas will be nursing a right foot injury but will also start. One of the biggest concerns heading into the season for UNC was their ability to break-in three new offensive lineman and with Renner's ability to stay mobile now in question, it will be up to this unit to keep their best offensive weapon upright and healthy as they move into the most important stretch of their season.

Hokie Defense

Since giving up 35 points in their opener against Alabama, Virginia Tech has given up an average of 11 points to the four opponents since, all coming during a four-game winning streak.

The highest point total, 21, came against Marshall in a three-overtime thriller. In most seasons, Virginia Tech fields one of the best, if not the best, defense in the ACC. This year's team could potentially have one of the best defenses in the entire country.

"It's a Frank Beamer football team. I have the utmost respect for Coach Beamer and what he's accomplished there at Virginia Tech, what he's doing and what he's going to continue doing," said Fedora this week. "Defensively, I'll be surprised if they don't finish up in the top two or three in the country defensively. Bud Foster is the mastermind behind it and always puts a great defense out there.

There playing really hard and they're having fun playing the game. When you turn on the film and you watch them play, that's the way you're supposed to play it."

A.J. Blue

A.J. Blue had a season high 68 yards rushing last week but his most important contribution probably came after the game when he let his teammates know that it's now or never time for them and their season.

After the ECU game, Blue felt that maybe some of his teammate's attitudes weren't where they needed to be and he gave an impassioned post-game talking too in the locker room after the loss.

"It was just something on my chest that I felt I had to get it off. I just saw a couple guys, you know, being lackadaisical around the locker room, the hotel and the movies and everything else. Sometimes that stuff can carry over and when it carries over it can bite you in the behind," said Blue. "That's what it did.

I felt like it was my time to speak up. It's easy to hear stuff from the coaches. We played football growing up since we was little, so when you hear that, it's kind of second nature. But, when you hear it from a guy that you're close to and a guy that you hopefully respect, I think it means a lot more."

Aside from his leadership, Blue and his running back stable mates would like to make a statement against a stingy Virginia Tech front seven.

The void left by Giovanni Bernard is being felt in the sense that he provided a comfort level for the other guys that they knew he would get the job done if all else fails.

North Carolina
Virginia Tech
Game Day
Line: Virginia Tech by 7
Date: Saturday, October 5
Time: 12:30 pm
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)

TV: ACC Network (Watch Online)
(S 138,XM 194)
Weather: Blacksburg Forecast
Series: VT leads the all-time series 18-10-6
Last Meeting: UNC won 48-34 on October 6, 2012 in Chapel Hill

Virginia Tech at a glance
Location: Blacksburg, Va.
Nickname: Hokies
Colors: Chicago Maroon & Burnt Orange
Stadium: Lane Stadium (65,632)
Surface: Natural Grass
Conference: ACC
2012 Record: 11-3 (7-1)
Head Coach: Frank Beamer (262-128-4 overall, 220-105-2 at VT)
Last Game: Beat Georgia Tech, 17-10, in Atlanta on September 26

Official Site | Rivals Site
Roster | Schedule | Stats

Virginia Tech Leaders
Passing: Logan Thomas
(84-159, 919 yds, 5 TD)

Rushing: Trey Edmunds
(84 carries, 353 yds, 4.2 avg, 3 TD)

Receiving: Demitri Knowles
(20 rec, 210 yds, 10.5 avg, 1 TD)

Virginia Tech Rankings
Passing: 188.8 YPG (99th)
Rushing: 139.8 YPG (90th)
Point For: 23.2 PPG (94th)
Points Against: 15.8 PPG (21st)

North Carolina Leaders
Passing: Bryn Renner
(91-152, 1119 yds, 7TD)
Rushing: AJ Blue
(43 carries, 176 yds, 4.1 avg, 0 TD)
Receiving: Eric Ebron
(17 rec, 263 yds, 15.5 avg, 1 TD)

North Carolina Rankings
Passing: 297.3 YPG (23rd)
Rushing: 100.3 YPG (112th)
Point For: 25.3 PPG (88th)
Points Against: 32.5 PPG (93rd)

Blue has mentioned this week that he had that sense when Bernard was on the team last season and he wants to give that same feeling to his fellow ball carriers this year. He's dealt with some injuries early but looks like he's getting his legs back under him.

It's still unknown when exactly heralded freshman T.J. Logan will see game action but every time the question is posed to Fedora he sounds more optimistic each time that Logan should be back soon.

Logan looked good in practice when Tar Heel Illustrated was on-hand Tuesday to observe and when he returns, could provide the home run hitter the Heels' offense has lacked thus far.

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