Tar Heels win shootout with Virginia Tech

No. 8 UNC improved to 4-0 with a win over the 19th-ranked Hokies

North Carolina running back Michael Carter reacts after scoring against Virginia Tech during the Tar Heels' win Saturday in Chapel Hill. (Gerry Broome / AP Photo)

The North Carolina Tar Heels didn’t get the blowout they thought they would, but the Tar Heels won a shootout.

After scoring three touchdowns in the first 11 minutes, UNC looked like it was going to walk away with a win, but Virginia Tech bounced back, cutting the lead to five entering the fourth quarter.

The Tar Heels were able to finish strong to wrap up their first win over the Hokies since 2015 and just their second win in the last eight games with Virginia Tech.

When the dust cleared, North Carolina was on the positive end of a 56-45 win, just the fourth time in school history that the Heels and their opponents combined for 100 or more points, and the first since a 70-41 loss to East Carolina in 2014.

Three thoughts

1. The Tar Heels were running wild. UNC gained a total of 399 yards on the ground, including 214 yards by Michael Carter, who set a school record with a 12.6 yards per rush average in the game. JaVonte Williams added 169 yards. It’s the first time since 2015 that a pair of Tar Heels topped 100 yards. Elijah Hood and T.J. Logan both hit the mark against NC State that season. “Whenever Vonte breaks off a long one, I say, ‘I’ve got to have the next one,” Carter said. “We do compete all game, but it’s friendly.”

2. Trailing 35-14 at the half, Virginia Tech dominated the third quarter. The Hokies had the ball for 11:41 of the 15 minutes, including recovering an onside kick following one touchdown. They scored another touchdown three plays later. “We knew it was coming,” Mack Brown said. “We told them to watch for it.”

3. After getting outgained 228 yards to 81 in the quarter, UNC saw its lead cut to 42-37. The Tar Heels responded with back-to-back touchdown drives, running the ball on six out of nine plays. After a Dyami Brown touchdown catch was wiped out due to offensive pass interference, Carter took the next snap 62 yards for a touchdown.

Number to Know

35-8 — North Carolina’s scoring advantage in the first (21-0) and fourth (14-8) quarters. Virginia Tech “won” the middle two quarters by a 37-21 margin.

They Said It

“Some fans might be angry about the defense, but I’d tell them to be happy to have a team that’s 3-0 and has plenty to work on.”

— UNC coach Mack Brown

Player of the Game

Michael Carter, UNC running back — He set a career-high and became the first Tar Heel to rush for 200 yards since Hood in that 2015 win over NC State. He also uncorked the first 50-yard scoring run since he did it against Mercer last season.

Critical thinking

The Tar Heels were down several starters on defense, including cornerback Storm Duck and nose tackle Raymond Vohasek. That may have hurt their depth, which might partially explain the third quarter struggles to contain the Hokies. Tech averaged 7.2 yards per carry and 21.2 yards per completion during the third quarter. They averaged 4.8 and 12.9 respectively in the other three quarters.