UNC turnover big play in game: Tech rover Antone Exum made arguably the play of the game when he stripped UNC tailback Ryan Houston of the ball at the Tech 5 late in the first quarter. Tech defensive tackle Derrick Hopkins recovered the fumble, giving the Hokies possession at a time when they were down 7-0 and looking as though they would be down 14-0.
“That was a big turnover for us,” Tech free safety Eddie Whitley said. “I was trying to tell the whole defense, ‘They can’t get in the end zone again.’ We were trying to force them into a field goal. At worst, they had to get a field goal.
“Tone [Antone Exum] put his head on the ball, and we all just run to the ball. We were ready to recover it. When a ball comes out, we jump on it.”
Tech turned that turnover into points, driving 95 yards in 18 plays, chewing 7:59 off the clock (the 18 plays and the time of possession were season highs for Tech). Logan Thomas’ 11-yard touchdown pass to Chris Drager tied the game at 7, and the Hokies went on to score the next 24 points in the game.
The forced fumble marked the third of Exum’s career and his second this season (BC). Hopkins’ recovery was his second as a Hokie (Miami last year).
Thomas adds another rushing TD: Thomas rushed for 32 yards on 13 carries and scored the Hokies’ second touchdown on a 23-yard run in the third quarter. The touchdown run marked his ninth of the season, tying for the most rushing touchdowns by a quarterback under Frank Beamer. Michael Vick rushed for nine touchdowns in 1999.
Thomas, who has rushed for at least one touchdown in five of the past six games, needs three more rushing touchdowns to break the school record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback in a single season. In 1974, Bruce Arians rushed for 11 touchdowns.
The redshirt sophomore from Lynchburg, Va., continues his stellar play. Since the Clemson game, Thomas has thrown 12 touchdown passes and just three interceptions.
“Like I said after that game (Clemson), I was just going to learn from that game,” Thomas said. “That was a sour feeling, and I never want to have that feeling again.
“You never want to get down on yourself, and that’s what I learned about myself and about this team. We’re not going to get down on ourselves. We’re going to keep battling. We showed that today when we jumped in that 7-0 hole today because of that turnover. We just kept battling, and we came out on top.”
Tight ends keep finding end zone: Tech tight end Chris Drager caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Thomas in his final game at Lane Stadium. The touchdown reception marked the second of his career.
The UNC game marked the third straight game in which a Tech tight end has caught a touchdown pass. Against Duke, backup Eric Martin caught a 2-yard scoring pass from Thomas, and then against Georgia Tech, Drager hauled in his first career score, a 14-yarder from Thomas that helped seal the win.
Drager now has 11 catches for 148 yards on the season.
Coles catches second TD: Tech receiver D.J. Coles caught a 4-yard touchdown pass from Thomas, who made a beautiful throw on a fade pattern in the third quarter. That score turned out to be the winning points in the game.
The touchdown reception marked the second of the season for Coles, who hauled in a scoring reception in Tech’s victory over Arkansas State.
“Logan gave us a route at the line of scrimmage,” Coles said. “Logan put the ball where only I could make a play on it. It was an over-the-shoulder catch. You have to go out there and make plays, and that’s what I did.”
Boykin and Coale finish home careers: Tech receiver Jarrett Boykin went out in style in his final home game, catching a career-high 10 passes for 106 yards. That surpasses his previous career high of eight catches, which came against Wake Forest and Central Michigan last season.
Boykin became the first Tech player to catch 10 or more passes in a game since 1990 when Nick Cullen hauled in 13 against Southern Miss. He has caught at least one pass in 47 of 51 career games and at least two passes in 41 of 51.
Coale added four catches for 37 yards against the Tar Heels. He has caught at least one pass in 48 of 52 career games and at least two passes in 42 of 52.
Boykin, who holds the school record for career receptions (173) and career receiving yardage (2,752), has caught 50 passes this season, while Coale has hauled in 48. The school record for receptions in a season is 55 by Ernest Wilford in 2005.
“You talk about those two kids, and neither one of them are real loud,” Beamer said. “They just go play. You can count on them, and in this business, that’s big. You know exactly what you’re going to get. They’ll make a play for you when you need them to. They’ve both had great careers here, and I’m proud of them.”
Senior Night in Blacksburg: Before the game, the Tech athletics department recognized 16 senior players. Those 16 players finished their careers with a 22-3 record at Lane Stadium and currently, that senior class is 41-11 heading into next week’s game at Virginia. The class needs two more wins to become the all-time winningest class in Tech history (the classes of 2007, 2008 and 2010 all won 42 games).
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