CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – No. 25 Virginia Tech handled the adversity and impact of Hurricane Matthew much better than No. 17 North Carolina on Saturday, and as a result, the Tar Heels suffered a 34-3 loss with significant ACC Coastal Division implications.
The Kenan Stadium field absorbed more than five inches of rain prior to kickoff as Hurricane Matthew blasted the majority of the state throughout Saturday. With wind gusts reaching 30 miles per hour, neither offense was able to find much of a rhythm as turnovers played the primary role in the game’s scoring.
Virginia Tech (4-1, 2-0 ACC) scored 20 points off four turnovers and added a four-yard touchdown drive when punter Tom Sheldon mishandled a snap deep in UNC territory. The Hokies’ first five scoring drives combined to travel 98 yards.
UNC (4-2, 2-1 ACC) churned out 131 total yards of offense – a Fedora-era low - on 2.1 yards per play and failed to score a touchdown for the first time since its 13-0 loss to N.C. State on Nov. 5, 2011. Quarterback Mitch Trubisky completed 13-of-33 passes for 58 yards and two interceptions.
The Hokies fumbled seven times, but recovered five to limit the damage. UNC lost the turnover battle (4-2) for the third time in four games.
The 31-point margin of defeat is UNC’s largest since losing 41-10 to N.C. State on Nov. 22, 2008.
Third Down Deficiency
UNC entered this Top-25 matchup ranked 11th nationally in third down conversion percentage (52.0). Virginia Tech countered with the nation’s fourth-best third down conversion percentage defense (20.3).
The Hokies dominated that statistic on Saturday, holding the Tar Heels to 2-of-14 on third down and preventing their opponents from converting on fourth down (0-of-4) for good measure. Only two of those 14 attempts were 3rd-and-short opportunities, while nine were 3rd-and-long.
Trubisky’s Streak Ends
Trubisky’s school record run of pass attempts without an interception came to an end at 293. On UNC’s second possession, the Mentor, Ohio native’s pass to Mack Hollins on 3rd-and-15 was tipped and picked off by Greg Stroman. The Hokies scored the game’s first points four plays later on Joey Slye’s 35-yard field goal.
Fedora vs. Foster
Larry Fedora’s offense made easy work of Bud Foster’s defense in their initial matchup in 2012 as the Tar Heels scored 48 points in a 14-point victory. Since then, however, Virginia Tech has held UNC to 61 total points in regulation – 15.3 points per game - over the past four meetings.
Stat of Note
UNC falls to 11-26-1 in games in which both teams are ranked.
Drennon’s Brief Return
UNC defensive end Dajaun Drennon returned to the playing field for the first time this season after breaking his right foot during spring practice. The junior, who has started 25 career games, returned to practice on Sept. 20 but was held out against Pittsburgh and Florida State.
Drennon, who entered the game on UNC’s third defensive series, played limited snaps before injuring his left leg late in the first quarter.
UNC’s loss makes next Saturday’s trip to No. 10 Miami a critical contest for its hopes at repeating as Coastal Division champions. Virginia Tech not only avoids Clemson, Louisville and Florida State out of the Atlantic, but also gets the Hurricanes at home for a Thursday night game on Oct. 20.
A loss in South Florida would put the Tar Heels’ ACC Championship Game hopes on life support.