The Hokies finally found their offense at the end of the first quarter, picking up their first first down of the game on a 15-yard pass to Nick Gallo from Braxton Burmeister, and a 36-yard pass to Tré Turner to put the team in scoring position. James Mitchell would rush the ball at the start of the second quarter in for Virginia Tech's first score of the game to cut the lead to 14.
With North Carolina unable to convert on its next two drives, Virginia Tech started to lean into its run game, eventually finding the endzone on a run from Khalil Herbet to make it a one score game, 21-14. UNC found its footing on the next drive when Williams and Carter combined for 69 yards of offense before Newsome ran the ball in on a backwards pass to push the lead to 28-14.
North Carolina would strike one more time in the half, forcing an incompletion from Burmeister on 4th-and-3 with a little over a minute left on the clock. Two quick passes from Howell and a rush from Carter set up the Tar Heels' star QB for a 43-yard bomb to Dyami Brown for North Carolina's fifth touchdown of the half.
In the second half, North Carolina nearly gave up a touchdown on the Hokies' opening drive twice. First, a touchdown pass to Turner was called back for an illegal shift, and then two plays later, a wide-open Drake Deiuliis slipped on the catch, forcing VT to settle for a 56-yard field goal for three points.
UNC's two running backs couldn't be stopped on the next drive, taking every offensive play to go 75 yards on six plays, ending with Carter's first touchdown of the game to make the score 42-17. Virginia Tech turned around on the next play and turned a near-interception into a 57-yard reception to Mitchell to put the team in the red zone. Two plays later, Hendon Hooker, in at quarterback for the Hokies, rushed the ball into the endzone for their third touchdown of the game.
Regaining the ball immediately after the score on an on-side kick, Virginia Tech scored again on a 52-yard run by Herbert, who currently leads the nation in yards-per-rush-attempt, to cut the score to just 11, 31-42.
When the Hokies forced another three-and-out from UNC's offense, their run game ground down the Tar Heel defense, churning out yards and eventually setting up a 33-yard touchdown pass to Tayvion Robinson. The failed two-point conversion attempt left North Carolina with a five point lead, 42-37, headed into the fourth quarter.
The fourth quarter Tar Heels showed up once again behind Williams and Carter, moving the team into the red zone on a couple of long runs. All it took was a short screen pass to Newsome who broke a tackle to walk the ball in, pushing the lead back to 12. Carter would come back the next drive to make a 62-yard rushing touchdown on an outside run to make the score 56-37. Refusing to die, Virginia Tech used a steady diet of run plays to work its way back to North Carolina's 26-yard line before Hooker tossed a 26-yard touchdown pass to Mitchell, then converting on the two-point attempt to cut the score to 56-45.
Virginia Tech wouldn't get another chance to score after UNC recovered the Hokies' attempt at an onside kick, and ran the clock out to a victory.
Who stood out?
Carter and Williams combined for 383 rushing yards, the first time that two UNC running backs have each had over 150 yards since 1981. Carter blew by his old career high of 165 rushing yards, set against VT in 2018, by rushing for 214 yards with two touchdowns. Williams set his own career high of 169 rushing yards plus two touchdowns, after going for 144 yards against Georgia Tech.
When was it decided?
After the sixth touchdown of the day for the Tar Heels early in the third quarter, the game looked over, with a North Carolina victory just a matter of time. But 20 unanswered points by the Hokies put them right in the game with all of the momentum heading into the fourth quarter.
The Tar Heels proved that under Mack Brown, they are still a team that does its best work in the fourth quarter. Two touchdowns put the game firmly out of reach for Virginia Tech.
Why does it matter?
The win was North Carolina's first win over a ranked team since 2016, when the Tar Heels defeated No. 16 Miami. Hype has surrounded the team in Chapel Hill the entire season, but after two victories that showed plenty of flaws, UNC finally has a decisive statement win.
When do they play next?
North Carolina will take on Florida State in Tallahassee, Florida next week on Oct. 17 at 7 p.m. The Seminoles are just 1-2 this year with their sole win coming over Jacksonville State, an FCS team.
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