Game Day: UNC vs. Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- North Carolina jumps back into ACC play in Blacksburg on Saturday, as the Tar Heels enter rowdy Lane Stadium to clash with Coastal Division rival No. 17 Virginia Tech at noon (R/LF).

Butch Davis resumes his rivalry with former Big East opponent Frank Beamer, who owns a 5-1 record against the first-year UNC head coach from his time with the Miami Hurricanes (‘95-‘00).

"It's always a challenge to go to Blacksburg to play Frank Beamer's teams," Davis said.

The respect between the two men is mutual, but North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC) is nowhere near as talented as the Miami squad that beat the Hokies 41-21 in Davis' final season in Coral Gables.

"Anytime you played Miami back then it brought out the best in us because they were such a good football team," Beamer said. "You knew if you beat them you beat a good football team — always very sound and very well coached. And I see the same thing getting ready to happen at North Carolina."

Virginia Tech (3-1, 0-0 ACC) will take the field Saturday afternoon with plenty to prove, as the offensive unit has struggled ever since the season opener against East Carolina.

Preseason All-America candidate Branden Ore has not lived up to the hype thus far, totaling only 205 yards and two touchdowns on the season – thanks in part to a below-average offensive line that has allowed 14 sacks and 32 tackles for loss through four games.

"I'm not sure how far along we are," Beamer said during his Tuesday press conference. "The first teamers played a half last week. When we beat a team 44-3 and didn't play a first teamer in the second half (and) people feel that it was a downer, this program's come a long way.

"I think Saturday certainly is a great measuring stick for us and there's no question about that. It's the first game in the ACC and I understand it hasn't looked very good. But I'm a firm believer that we're making progress and that I'm of the opinion that we'll get back."

North Carolina's defense (374.5 yards per game allowed) has developed a bend-but-don't-break mentality, with only nine of their opponents' 21 red zone opportunities resulting in touchdowns, but they have to do a better job at getting off the field on third down (32 of 71, 94th nationally).

The Tar Heels' offense also has issues that need to be resolved. T.J. Yates looked like a freshman for the first time in a 37-10 loss to South Florida last weekend, throwing for only 85 yards and a career-high four interceptions.

Standout wide receivers Hakeem Nicks, Brandon Tate and Brooks Foster combined for just 60 yards on six catches – numbers that must be improved if UNC expects to score on a stingy VT defense (308.75 ypg allowed).

The deficient running game (79.5 yards per game, good for 110th nationally) received a much-needed shot in the arm against the Bulls, as true freshman Ryan Houston gained 43 yards and a touchdown on 11 carries. Incumbent starter Johnny White also showed flashes and potential, gaining 36 yards on 13 carries.

Make no mistake about it – this North Carolina program is ready to get back on the field to erase the hideous memories of last weekend's defeat in Tampa, Fla.

"It's going to be exciting," red-shirt freshman cornerback Kendric Burney said. "Their crowd's always into it – it's one of the best places to play in America. They've got their Homecoming, so you know the guys are going to be jacked up. It's going to be a great atmosphere, so we're just going to go out there and play football and have fun."

The Tar Heels have lost all three contests with the Hokies since Virginia Tech joined the ACC in 2004, with a 9-15-6 all-time mark. North Carolina's last victory was a 42-3 blowout in the Jan. 1, 1998 Gator Bowl.

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