Hokies defeat UNC in ACC opener, 17-10
By Matt Kovatch
September 29, 2007

Box Score VT 17, UNC 10
 
BLACKSBURG, Va. - A Cam Martin sack for minus-5 yards, along with an ensuing false start penalty, thwarted a late North Carolina drive and helped the Virginia Tech football team to a 17-10 victory in its ACC opener at Lane Stadium on Saturday.

Down by seven in the fourth quarter, UNC began its final drive with 4:10 remaining at its own 14-yard line. Tailback Anthony Elzy carried the ball on five consecutive plays to advance the Tar Heels into Hokie territory at the 44, but Martin came up with his third - and most important - sack of the contest following a timeout at 1:41.

After being whistled for a false start that moved the ball back another five yards, UNC's fourth-down effort was denied when Tech safety D.J. Parker broke up a pass, giving the Hokies the ball back and the opportunity to run out the clock and ice the victory.

"I was just licking my chops," Martin said in reference to his big sack at the end of the game. "I was like, 'This could be a big turnaround in the game.' It was 3rd-and-short, and if I didn't get to him, they could've came back on 4th-and-short and picked it up pretty easily. Like I said, I was just licking my chops."

The whip linebacker's three sacks for a total of minus-14 yards were a part of his career-high 10 tackles on the day. Fellow linebackers Xavier Adibi and Vince Hall had their usual strong outings, as Adibi made a career-high 15 stops - including a sack of his own and an interception that set up Tech's final touchdown - while Hall brought down 13 Tar Heels.

The No. 14/17 Hokies improved to 4-1 overall with the win, while the Tar Heels dropped to 1-4 overall and 0-2 in the ACC. While Tech's offense only put up 241 yards offense - including just 76 through the air - the Hokies were able to mix in some big plays - like Martin's sack, a Kam Chancellor fumble recovery in their own end zone, and Adibi's key interception - to come out on top.

"I thought some things out there kind of defined our team a little bit - the goal line stand, and knocking that ball loose on the goal line," Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. "[We] never give up. That big interception got us going there. We really did some things that win football games, and then we did some things that don't win football games - some penalties that came at unnecessary times.

"I keep saying it, but we are just not quite there together. We are getting closer all the time. I really do think we are. We're just not hitting on all cylinders, but we have the cylinders to hit - that's the good part."

The Hokies began the game with a seven-play, 70-yard drive that resulted in the only touchdown of the first half. It all started from the Tech 30 with a 53-yard rush by wide receiver Eddie Royal, who took a reverse from tailback Kenny Lewis, Jr., around the right end and down the sideline to the UNC 17. It was the Hokies' longest rushing play of the season, surpassing quarterback Tyrod Taylor's 45-yard run in last week's win over William & Mary.

"I love getting my hands on the ball, and it was a great play call," Royal - who caught a team-high four passes to move past David Clowney (03-06) into seventh place on Tech's all-time list with 95 - said of the Hokies' opening play. "I'm a little upset - I should've scored. Anytime you get a great play call like that, you've got to get into the end zone."

Tailback Branden Ore then carried four straight times for a total of 16 yards to get Tech to the UNC 1, but a 5-yard false start penalty backed the Hokies up to the 6. Two plays later on 3rd-and-goal, Taylor dropped back for what looked to be the drive's first pass attempt, but defensive pressure forced him to leave the pocket and scramble five yards to the right corner of the end zone for his third rushing score of the season. Jud Dunlevy's PAT at the 10:12 mark put the Hokies up 7-0.

The only other scoring of the first half came with 9:48 remaining in the second quarter by way of a Connor Barth 32-yard field goal for UNC. Barth tied a school-record with his the successful kick, as it was his 15th-straight dating back to 2005 when he began the streak at Lane Stadium.

Much like the first half, Tech started the second with another scoring drive, only this time it ended with a field goal. The Hokies began with good field position after a short kickoff and a 34-yard return by wide receiver Josh Morgan to the UNC 42. After Taylor rushed for four yards, he was then sacked for minus-7 and had to come out of the game for a play with a strained groin. Sean Glennon entered in relief and promptly completed a 10-yard pass to Morgan to get the Hokies into Dunlevy's range. The redshirt-senior then delivered a 52-yarder at 13:24 to put Tech up 10-3, and it was the longest field goal by a Virginia Tech kicker since Shayne Graham nailed a 52-yarder against Pittsburgh in 1999.

The Tar Heels gave Hokie fans a scare on their ensuing drive, as they made it all the way to the Tech 5 before defensive end Orion Martin jarred the ball loose from UNC ball carrier Ryan Houston. Tech rover Kam Chancellor came up with the recovery in the end zone for a touchback, and it was the first fumble recovery for the Tech defense this season.

Tech extended its lead to 14 late in third, capitalizing on its defense's second takeaway of the day. On 1st-and-10 at the UNC 36, a T.J. Yates pass deflected off of his intended receiver into the hands of Tech linebacker Xavier Adibi at the 43, who recorded his seventh-career interception before returning it 31 yards to the UNC 12. Ore followed with carries of four and seven yards, respectively, before plunging in for a 1-yard touchdown - his fourth score of the year - at the 2:17 mark. Dunlevy converted the PAT to make it 17-3 in Tech's favor.

Ore ripped off a season-best 93 rushing yards on 19 carries to go with his touchdown, and said it's only a matter of meshing better with his blockers.

"That just comes from everybody being on the same page and working together," he said. "The more practice and the more time we get together, I think we'll be successful. You can see that our guys [the offensive linemen] are working well together right now and they're doing their job. The most important thing is to take care of your job, and everything else will happen. We just need to keep getting better each week."

The Tar Heels' Anthony Elzy added a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:34 left in the game to cap a 12-play, 76-yard drive and make it 17-10, but it was too little, too late for UNC and Virginia Tech won its fourth-straight over the Heels as a member of the ACC.

Taylor went 10-of-19 for 66 yards through the air, and added 11 rushing yards on 11 carries while getting sacked four times. He also threw his first collegiate interception early in the second quarter. Glennon completed his only pass of the day for 10 yards.

For the Tar Heels, Yates completed 16-of-25 for 182 yards and one interception, and was sacked six times. Wide receiver Hakeem Nicks caught a career-high eight of those passes for 94 yards, and Elzy earned 74 yards on 11 rushes. Deunta Williams led the defense with nine tackles and an interception.

The Hokies will travel to Clemson next Saturday for a 6 p.m. contest against the Tigers, and the game will be broadcast on ESPN.

"I think there are some things that you can really take from this game, and then there are some things that we can really learn from," Beamer concluded. "What I like is our toughness. When they absolutely had to, our defense stepped up. That's what I like to see - kids that will fight back. We are not as smooth as we want, but if we just keep giving effort, we're going to get there."