October 30, 2009
Last-second field goal by UNC downs Hokies 20-17
Taylor rushes for two touchdowns, but Tech loses second straight
North Carolina (5-3) 077620
(14) Virginia Tech (5-3) 0071017
  • Lane/Worsham Field - 66,233
  • Passing: Tyrod Taylor 161 yds
  • Rushing: Ryan Williams 96 yds
  • Receiving: Dyrell Roberts 60 yds

BLACKSBURG, Va. Two field goals in the final three minutes by North Carolina’s Casey Barth, including the game-winner as time expired, lifted the visiting Tar Heels to a 20-17 victory over No. 14 Virginia Tech on Thursday night at Lane Stadium in ACC football action.

The loss was Tech’s second in a row and it dropped the Hokies to 5-3 overall and 3-2 in the ACC. North Carolina improved to 5-3 overall and recorded its first conference win of the season to move to 1-3. It was the latest in a series of close games between the ACC Coastal Division foes, as four of the last six match-ups have been decided by seven points or less.

“I don’t think we got into rhythm today as a football team,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “We had field position in the first half and we didn’t get any points. We fumbled, we didn’t get a block and we had some tough penalties at the end. The game just didn’t fit.”

After Barth knotted the game at 17 apiece from 19 yards out with 2:52 on the game clock, the Hokies looked to avoid overtime by driving the field with two timeouts in their pocket. But on third-and-6 from the Tech 28, Hokie tailback Ryan Williams took a handoff up the middle to fight for a first down. North Carolina defensive tackle Tydreke Powell got a hand on the ball and jarred it loose at the 30, where safety Deunta Williams scooped it up and returned it to the Tech 24.

The Hokies used their two remaining timeouts in an effort to salvage some time should they get the ball back, but Tar Heel tailback Ryan Houston converted a crucial third-and-3 that crippled the Hokies’ chances of a comeback. Three plays later, Barth drilled his second field goal – this one from 21 yards out – to end the game and set the final score.

“There probably isn’t anything you can do to lift me up right now,” Williams said after the game when asked about the lost fumble, which was his first on a rushing play this season. “Personally, I feel like I took the game away today. The game was on the line, and I fumbled. But I’ve got to move on.”

“After today, there is no reason to dwell on it. I can’t go back. Next Thursday, I will be the same old guy trying to get down the field.”

It was a tough loss for the Hokies, who last fell on the game’s final play at the Insight Bowl against California in 2003. Beamer made sure to give North Carolina its due credit, but immediately tried to focus on the road ahead.

“We can still win 10 games and that has to be the goal right now going forward,” Beamer said. “I firmly believe we are a good football team. But the problem has been being consistently good. We have to continue to work to get that consistency. We can still get to 10 wins, but we’re going to have to work like heck to get there.”

The two teams played scoreless football until late in the second quarter, when North Carolina turned a lengthy drive into the game’s first points. The Tar Heels began at their own 16-yard line, and 13 plays, 84 yards and 5:11 later, quarterback T.J. Yates placed a perfect toss over the defender’s shoulder to receiver Jheranie Boyd in the back corner of the end zone from 13 yards out. Barth’s extra point at 2:44 gave the Tar Heels a 7-0 lead heading into halftime. It was the first time the Hokies were shut out in the first half since LSU blanked Tech in the first two quarters back in 2007.

A 1-yard run by Tech quarterback Tyrod Taylor on fourth-and-goal finally got the Hokies on the board with 6:44 on the third-quarter clock. Taylor completed three passes to three different receivers for a combined 53 yards on the 13-play, 82-yard drive that consumed 6:16. Williams also rushed for 38 yards in the series, and kicker Matt Waldron’s PAT knotted the game at 7 apiece.

A 44-yard run by North Carolina’s Shaun Draughn powered the Tar Heels’ next possession, one that ended on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Yates to a wide-open Greg Little in the back of the end zone. It was Yates’ fourth completion of the series, and Barth’s PAT at 4:47 put the Tar Heels back up by seven, 14-7.

Tech answered back with three points on its ensuing possession to cut the Carolina lead to four at 14-10. A holding call on the second play of the fourth quarter negated a 20-yard touchdown run by Williams, so the Hokies instead had to settle for a 36-yard field goal three plays later by Waldron with 13:27 remaining in the game.

Shortly thereafter, a big play by the Tech defense gave the offense a chance to redeem itself. On Carolina’s first play following the kickoff return, Tech defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson got pressure up the middle and hit Yates as he unloaded a pass into the flat. Tech cornerback Rashad Carmichael was there to pick it off for his team-high fourth interception of the season, and he returned it to the Tar Heels’ 5-yard line.

After two handoffs to Williams, Taylor took the snap from the 1-yard line and delivered a crushing blow to a Tar Heel defender at the goal line to put the Hokies on top for the first time. Waldron’s extra point at 11:51 gave Tech a 17-14 lead.

The Tar Heels were up for the challenge, however, and they responded with a 16-play, 78-yard drive that ate up nearly nine minutes of valuable clock time. The 19-yard field goal by Barth with 2:52 left in regulation tied the contest at 17 apiece and set the stage for the dramatic ending.

The Hokies will look to get back to their winning ways when they return to action next Thursday night with another ESPN televised contest, a 7:30 p.m. tilt at East Carolina.

“I think the motivation is to get back out there and win so we don’t feel like this again,” Tech linebacker Cody Grimm said. “It sucks to lose, and I don’t want to go out there and lose. Getting to 10 wins [like Beamer wants to do] is good, but I hate to lose and I don’t want to feel like this again.”

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