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October 5, 2013
Five Game Changers: Virginia Tech
Here are the five game changers that seemed to have a great impact on the game, as the Tar Heels fall in their second ACC game to Virginia Tech on Saturday, 27-17. Even though in a tough match up, in a tough environment, the Tar Heels had their chances against the Hokies, but a few plays stood out that determined the game and the win for Frank Beamer and the Hokies.
With the loss, the Tar Heels have lost three straight and now are in 1-4 hole, losing both of their ACC games so far this year.
Logan Thomas had a couple of games under his belt this season with his new offense, but wasn't what he was looking for, as he had only completed a little over 50 percent of his passes on the season. Thomas came into the game looking to change that against a team that just gave up over 600 yards of offense the week before against East Carolina, a team the Hokies had played outstanding against a couple of week before.
Thomas got his wish and was able to make some huge plays against the Tar Heel defense Saturday, finishing his day 19 of 28 from the field for 293 yards and three touchdowns. Even though Thomas did most of his damage in the first half, it was enough to put the Tar Heels in a hole they couldn't get out of.
On several counts, Virginia Tech and Thomas were able to make key plays at the right time, whether it was on a long passing play (83 yard pass completion and 38 yard touchdown pass, along with several others) or key third downs for the Hokies. This was by far Thomas' best passing day of the season.
Virginia Tech Defense
The Virginia Tech defense coming in was one of the best in the nation, only giving up 15.8 points per game and it would have been less if the first game against Alabama didn't happen. Either way, the Tar Heels knew that they would need some crisp offense, mixing up both the run and pass game against this high flying Hokies.
The Tar Heels seemed to have success in the second half, where they were able to move the ball better both in the passing and running game, but time and time again, the Hokies stood up the Tar Heels, only giving up 17 points in the game (with one touchdown being late into the game). In the end, Virginia Tech only allowed 377 yards total, but most of that was when the Tar Heels were catching up.
Bryn Renner Out/ Marquise Williams In
Bryn Renner was in a boot this past week and was questionable before the game. Renner was seen on the field throwing in warm-ups but eventually, Larry Fedora made the call to go with Marquise Williams. Williams is a dynamic quarterback that has the ability to run and throw in the past, which was a considerable difference in the game. Williams finished the afternoon with 277 yards passing and 57 yards rushing. Williams certainly gave the Tar Heels a chance to win Saturday afternoon, but the Tar Heels had to work their pass happy offense a little different without Renner. Whether or not Williams was the better choice in the game due to Renner's injury, it certainly was a game changer in the game, even if it was the better call in that position.
Switzer Punt Return Called Back
The score was still close, with Virginia Tech holding onto a 21-7 lead in the third quarter. The Tar Heels defense stood up to the Hokies and forced them to punt. Switzer received a booming kick deep into the Tar Heels territory. Eventually, Switzer (all 5'9 of him) was able to squirt out of some tackles and headed down the sideline, with no defenders laying a hand on him after that. The momentum seemed to have shifted for the Tar Heels and what would have eventually cut the lead to 21-14. But, once again, the Tar Heels make a key mistake, with a block in the back and taking the score off the board. The momentum, which seemed to have been gathered by the Tar Heels, was sucked right out of them in a matter of seconds.
It has been a theme of the season so far for the Heels, whether it has been penalties, failed red zone attempts, or turnovers. Saturday against the Hokies, it was a mixture of all three, as the Tar Heels turned the ball over three times (two interceptions, one fumble), had several penalties (11 for 79 yards) that cost them, and failed to put touchdowns on the board in the red zone.
Time and time again for the Tar Heels this season, they haven't been able to play clean and mistake free football, which has cost them greatly on the scoreboard and in the win column. Saturday against the Hokies, if UNC had been able to play mistake free football, there could have been a different outcome of the game.
But, with the mistakes, the Heels fell 27-17 and now are in a hole with a record of 1-4.