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The Tar Heels steamrolled the Hokies last year. Tech doesn't want to let it happen again this weekend.
Virginia Tech’s Jack Tyler calls last year’s loss to North Carolina “just a total disaster” for the Hokies defense.
Saturday, October 5, 2013
BLACKSBURG — Hokies linebacker Jack Tyler watched the film of last year’s North Carolina game and could barely recognize the defense.
Tar Heels running back Giovani Bernard gashed the Tech front time after time, racking up 262 of UNC’s 339 rushing yards in a 48-34 rout in Chapel Hill, one of the worst defensive performances in Bud Foster’s time as the Hokies’ coordinator.
“That game was just a total disaster,” Tyler said. “It’s like, ‘What were we doing?’ There were guys that were solid contributors on the team not doing what they were supposed to be doing, me included.
“It was kind of embarrassing watching it, because that’s so unlike a Virginia Tech defense.”
It remains fresh in everyone’s minds as Virginia Tech (4-1, 1-0 ACC) prepares to host struggling North Carolina (1-3, 0-1 ACC) at Lane Stadium this afternoon.
Call it a two-week revenge tour for Foster’s revitalized defense. This week it gets North Carolina. Next week is Pittsburgh, which also had its way last year in a 35-17 win, the first signs of trouble in the Hokies’ disappointing 2012 season.
“They whupped us over there last year. Bad,” defensive line coach Charley Wiles said of UNC. “We didn’t look like the same football team.”
Foster’s group comes into today’s game playing some of the best defense it has in years, however. The Hokies rank fourth nationally in total defense (241.2 ypg), fifth in passing defense (138.2 ypg) and 19th in rushing defense (103.0 ypg). They’re second in the country with 17 sacks and tied for first with 11 interceptions.
And they have put up those numbers despite playing four teams plenty capable of putting up yards and points — Alabama, East Carolina, Marshall and Georgia Tech.
“When we’ve had a group with a lot of experience and then some depth to go along with it, especially up front, where those big kids can play hard every snap and not wear them out, that’s when we’ve had our best units,” Foster said.
He added a disclaimer: “There’s still a lot of football ahead of us.”
The Tar Heels, despite their 1-3 start, remain a dangerous offensive team, although they’re probably not as potent as last year’s club, which rode Bernard and an offensive line stocked with NFL talent to big offensive numbers. Quarterback Bryn Renner is back, although his numbers have dipped slightly. He’s throwing for 279.2 yards a game and has seven touchdowns to go along with three picks, but his completion percentage is down five points to just under 60.
Tight end Eric Ebron and receiver Quinshad Davis remain viable targets in the passing game, but the Heels haven’t been able to find a replacement for Bernard and his linemen. UNC is averaging 3.02 yards per carry, worst in the ACC and more than two yards per carry less than last year.
What was expected to be the Heels’ breakout season, with the school finally NCAA sanction free, has instead gone off the tracks. North Carolina is 1-3 after an embarrassing 55-31 loss to East Carolina at home last week. Its offense has underperformed, and its defense hasn’t stopped anybody.
“You all know the old saying, ‘It’s never as bad as you think it is, and it’s never as good as you think it is’?” Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said. “You go in and look at the film. Well, it was as bad as I thought it was, so I proved that wrong.”
That doesn’t mean Fedora’s offense isn’t dangerous. The Heels still put up 31 points and 465 yards against an ECU team Virginia Tech struggled to move the ball against. Add the pace that the Tar Heels prefer to push, and the Hokies realize they have their work cut out for them, despite their success the first five weeks.
“We’re, whatever, the third or fourth best defense,” Tyler said. “And we want to be the best defense. … There’s not really a complacent feeling. We want to keep getting better and strive to be the best defense in the country.”
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