BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas threw two touchdown passes and ran for one, and the Hokies extended their streak of 10-win seasons to eight, holding on to knock off North Carolina 24-21 in an ACC game played Thursday night at Lane Stadium.
With the win, Tech moved to 10-1 overall on the season, 6-1 in the ACC. North Carolina, which fell to 6-5 overall, 2-5 in the league, lost to the Hokies for the seventh time in eight meetings since Tech joined the league.
The Hokies, who have won six straight, need only for the Virginia Cavaliers to lose at Florida State on Saturday to claim the Coastal Division crown and clinch a spot in the ACC title game in Charlotte on Dec. 3 against Clemson.
“I’m proud of our team,” said Tech head coach Frank Beamer, who won his 250th game in his 31st season as a head coach. “I’m proud of our coaches. We’ve battled all year long and hung in there. Some of it hasn’t been smooth, but we’ve found a way to win.
“We’ll see what happens this weekend, but regardless of what happens with Virginia and Florida State, the Virginia game is a big game for us. If they beat Florida State, it gets a little bit bigger.”
Tech also won 10 games in a season for the eighth straight year. That mark is tied for third best in the modern era with Miami (1985-92). Florida State holds the record with 14 consecutive 10-win seasons from 1987-2000, and Texas had nine straight 10-win seasons from 2001-09.
“I think that’s special,” Beamer said. “I think we’re the only team in the country that has as many straight 10-win seasons. I’ve got a good organization. I’ve got good coaches, and we’ve got good players. They’re not up and down. I’ve been fortunate to have good coaches and good players over the years, and you don’t win that many by having bad coaches and bad players.”
The Hokies trailed 7-0 after an early turnover led to a 4-yard touchdown run by UNC tailback Giovani Bernard less than two minutes into the game. But Tech ripped off 24 consecutive points and then held on for the win.
A UNC turnover enabled the Hokies to tie the game early in the second quarter. Ryan Houston fumbled the ball inside the Tech 5, as UNC appeared ready to take a 14-0 lead, and Derrick Hopkins recovered for the Hokies, stopping the drive.
That led to a season-long 18-play drive, which ended when Thomas hit tight end Chris Drager for an 11-yard touchdown. Tech converted on three third-down situations and one fourth down, and Cody Journell’s extra point tied the game at 7.
“It was a drive we needed,” Thomas said. “We were already down in the hole 7-0. We had the ball on the 5-yard line, and we had to do something with it. Defense got us the ball back. We just battled and got a couple of runs here and there, and I was able to put it out there to Chris and he made a nice play.”
Journell gave the Hokies their first lead later in the second quarter, though his field goal was bittersweet. Tech had first-and-goal at the UNC 1 and failed to get in the end zone, and thus, the Hokies settled for a 22-yard field goal by Journell with 4:58 left in the first half to take a 10-7 lead.
In the third quarter, Tech took control. On its first drive of the second half, the Hokies went 70 yards in nine plays, with the critical play coming on third-and-13 from the UNC 44 when UNC’s Charles Brown was called for pass interference that gave Tech a first down.
The Hokies scored on the drive when Thomas ran it in from 23 yards out. Journell’s extra point gave Tech a 17-7 lead with 9:02 left in the third.
The Hokies then added to their lead at the end of the third. A seven-play, 67-yard drive ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass from Thomas to D.J. Coles. Journell’s extra point gave Tech a 24-7 lead with 25 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Tar Heels added two touchdowns in the final seven minutes to make the game close, the final one coming with 2:32 remaining on a Houston 1-yard run. UNC then appeared to recover the ensuing onsides kick, but a Tar Heel player touched it before it went 10 yards, and the Hokies then ran out all but three seconds of the clock. UNC’s final play was an incomplete pass in its own territory.
“That was very disappointing – to give up two touchdowns back to back,” Tech free safety Eddie Whitley said. “The biggest thing is that we got the win. We knew the offense was going to run the clock out as much as they could, and we just had to make one more stop. But that was very disappointing, letting them get two touchdowns. We wanted to close the game out.”
Thomas accounted for most of Tech’s offense on the evening. He completed 19 of 32 for 195 yards, with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 32 yards on 13 carries and scored a touchdown.
Most of his completions went to receiver Jarrett Boykin, who hauled in a career-high 10 passes for 106 yards. Tailback David Wilson suffered an off night, rushing for only 82 yards on 21 carries and seeing his streak of 100-yard rushing games end at seven.
UNC quarterback Bryn Renner led the Tar Heels, completing 14 of 26 for 224 yards and a touchdown. Bernard rushed for 45 yards, but missed the second half with a concussion after a collision with Tech’s Jayron Hosley late in the first half.
Tech, which moved to 19-5 on Thursday night ESPN broadcasts, will take on rival Virginia in the season finale next Saturday in Charlottesville, Va. Kickoff is slated for 3:30 p.m.
For updates on Virginia Tech football, follow the Hokies on Twitter (@VT_Football).
For updates on the Hokies, follow Jimmy Robertson on Twitter (@jrobIHS).