CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – Tyrod Taylor threw two second-half touchdown passes to Marcus Davis and Tech forced six turnovers to lead the No. 16-ranked Virginia Tech Hokies past North Carolina 26-10 in an ACC game played Saturday evening at Kenan Stadium.
The win marked Tech’s eighth straight after opening the season with two losses. The Hokies moved to 8-2 overall, 6-0 in the ACC and need only to win one of their two remaining games to clinch the Coastal Division crown.
“The key factor is having great kids,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “I’ve said that a bunch, but I really mean it. If you’ve got bad guys on your team, they just fall apart after two tough losses in a week – two losses that stay with you.
“But our kids got right back to work. And here we are – and I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished.”
Tech, which trailed 7-0 early and 10-9 at halftime, opened the second half in fine fashion, scoring on three of its first four possessions of the half.
On their opening drive of the second half, the Hokies went 81 yards and got their first touchdown of the game when, on third-and-10 from the UNC 11, Taylor hit Davis on a quick slant for a touchdown. Chris Hazley’s extra point gave the Hokies their first lead of the game, 16-10, with 10:38 left in the third quarter.
Hazley gave the Hokies a nine-point lead a little more than three minutes later. He drilled a 23-yard field goal with 7:11 left in the third quarter that made the score 19-10.
The Hokies then put the game out of reach thanks to a huge break. Forced to punt, Tech punter Brian Saunders launched one toward UNC punt returner Da’Norris Searcy. As Searcy went to pick up the bouncing ball, he slipped and tried to grab the ball with his left hand. The ball ricocheted off his left hand, and Tech’s Alonzo Tweedy recovered at the UNC 29.
Tech then drove to the UNC 13, and on third-and-7, Taylor hit Davis again, this time on a crossing pattern, for a touchdown. Hazley’s extra point gave Tech a 26-10 lead with 2:37 left in the third quarter.
“He’s an athletic receiver,” Taylor said of Davis. “He’s been playing like that in practice all week and all year. I knew it was just a matter of time. Once he gets his hands on the football, I can make a play. That’s my job – to get the ball to playmakers.”
Taylor completed 13-of-28 for 249 yards, with the two touchdowns. Davis caught four passes for a career-high 81 yards.
“I think the coaches have always had the confidence in me,” Davis said. “It was just up to me to put myself in the situation to succeed.
“Coach preached about it on Monday. We needed players to step up and fill in for the players who were missing. You came here to play football. There’s no time to sit around and say, ‘Oh, I wish I could do this or do that.’ You’ve just got to go out there and do it.”
Taylor and Davis provided plenty of margin for Tech’s ball-hawking defense. The Hokies intercepted North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates four times – Yates had been intercepted just four times the entire season coming into the game. He completed 18-of-33 for 197 yards, with those four picks
Tech also held talented UNC receiver Dwight Jones to just one catch for four yards. Jones caught eight passes for 233 yards the previous week against Florida State.
“We weren’t scared,” said cornerback Jayron Hosley, who intercepted two of those passes and is now tied for the nation’s lead with seven on the season. “We didn’t want to play afraid. When we needed to press him [Jones], we pressed him. When we needed to play off, we played off.
“We all did a good job of working together. It all works together. It’s an 11-man machine, man, and we were all working together.”
Hazley drilled four field goals in the game, including a career-long 52-yarder in the first half. He also connected from 38, 26 and 23 yards. He has now made 17 straight field goals after missing his first attempt of the season in the loss to Boise State. The 17 straight ties a school record that was previously shared by Brandon Pace (2006) and Chris Kinzer (1986).
“It’s definitely an honor to be in that good of company,” Hazley said. “But I try not to think about it. I take it week by week and focus on the next week’s game. It’s great to have, but it’s not really that important.”
Tech finished with 418 yards of total offense. Tailbacks Darren Evans (90 yards) and Ryan Williams (83 yards) combined for 173 yards rushing.
Tech will be on the road for its next game, too, traveling to Miami for a game with the ’Canes, who knocked off Georgia Tech in Atlanta on Saturday. The kickoff for the game is slated for 3:30 p.m.
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