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The Daily Tar Heel

Hokies tricked, UNC treats

Barth’s ?eld goal downs Va. Tech

Greg Little (8) and members of North Carolina’s football team celebrate after UNC upset No. 14 Virginia Tech. DTH/Andrew Dye
Greg Little (8) and members of North Carolina’s football team celebrate after UNC upset No. 14 Virginia Tech. DTH/Andrew Dye

BLACKSBURG, Va. — For the second straight game, North Carolina walked off the field to a cascade of boos from the home crowd.

But this time, after a 20-17 upset of No. 14 Virginia Tech (5-3, 3-2 ACC) in the Hokies’ Lane Stadium, the Tar Heels (5-3, 1-3 ACC) didn’t seem to mind too much.

“It feels so good. I’ve never had this feeling before,” quarterback T.J. Yates said. “It sends chills down your spine when your whole team is rushing the field.”

Casey Barth booted home a 21-yard winning field goal with no time left on the clock, finishing off a wild back-and-forth second half between the ACC foes.

The real drama, though, occurred well before Barth knocked through the final points.

Early in the fourth quarter with the score 14-10 in favor of UNC, Yates threw what he called a “stupid” interception inside his own 10-yard line due to heavy pressure. Virginia Tech’s Tyrod Taylor capitalized from there, rushing for a one-yard touchdown to give the Hokies a three-point advantage.

But North Carolina wasn’t about to let another chance at a statement game on the national stage slip through its fingers.

“Sometimes when you play Virginia Tech it’s a little bit like a 12-round heavyweight prize fight,” coach Butch Davis said. “There’s a lot of body blows, it’s a physical game, it’s a tough game. Sometimes you’ve got to weather the first and second round and not get knocked out.”

Yates and the offense responded to the turnover with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with a 19-yard Barth field goal to knot the score at 17-17 with 2:52 left in the fourth quarter.

And on Virginia Tech’s next drive, UNC’s defense did its part. Tydreke Powell stripped Hokies running back Ryan Williams at the Hokies’ 30-yard line, and Deunta Williams scooped it up to put UNC in position to win.

“I thought our kids today rose up and they proved something to themselves,” Davis said. “That if you don’t ever give up on yourself, you always have a chance.”

One aspect of the game UNC never gave up on was its running game. North Carolina pounded Virginia Tech’s defense for 181 yards on the ground, using a three-headed monster at tailback.

Shaun Draughn, Ryan Houston and Greg Little all received at least six carries, and Draughn led the way with 77 yards.

“They didn’t know where we were going to hit them,” Draughn said. “That change of pace, I guess their linemen didn’t know how to set or which way to slant. That change of pace just kept them on their toes.”

Yates finished with only 131 passing yards, but he stepped up when he was needed the most. On one occasion, a fourth-and-seven from the Virginia Tech 36, he found Greg Little on a deep slant pass for 19 yards as he was being pummeled by a Hokie defender.

That kept the drive alive, and the reception led to the tying field goal.

Plays like those kept this night from resembling others for the Tar Heels, namely last Thursday’s 30-27 defeat at the hands of Florida State — a fact that was not lost on Yates.

“If we would have lost this game, I don’t know,” Yates said. “That would have just completely broke us.”

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