College football: Virginia Tech 24, UNC 21
By Hank Kurz Jr.
BLACKSBURG, Va. ó Logan Thomas threw for two touchdowns and ran for a third, leading No. 9 Virginia Tech to a 24-21 victory over North Carolina on Thursday night and another 10-win season.
The Hokies (10-1, 6-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won their sixth in a row since a home loss to No. 7 Clemson and remained on track for a rematch with the Tigers in the ACC championship game. Virginia Tech would clinch its fourth Coastal Division title in five years Saturday night if Virginia loses at No. 23 Florida State.
If the Cavaliers win, the Virginia rivals play for a berth in the conference championship game Nov. 26.
North Carolina (6-5, 2-5) lost its second straight. The Tar Heels failed to get anything going on offense until after the Hokies had taken a commanding lead, then made it tense for fans that remained in the stands on a frigid night.
Bryn Rennerís 5-yard touchdown pass to Erik Highsmith made it 24-14 with 7:06 to go, and after the Hokies were forced to punt, Rennerís 64-yard pass to Highsmith set up Ryan Houstonís short touchdown run, making it 24-21 with 2:32 to play.
The Tar Heels tried an onside kick and recovered it, but the ball did not travel the required 10 yards to allow them to gain possession. Virginia Tech almost ran out the clock, leaving the Tar Heels time for one play ó but Bryn Rennerís short pass fell incomplete.
The victory was the 250th as a head coach for Frank Beamer.
Thomas finished 19 of 32 for 195 yards. He hit Jarrett Boykin 10 times for 106 yards, and Virginia Tech improved to 19-5 on Thursday nights.
Until the late drama, the Hokies were in control.
They led 10-7 at halftime and scored twice in the third quarter to effectively put the game away, especially since the Tar Heelsí offense managed to do very little. Their cause was not helped when 1,000-yard rusher Giovani Bernard, who gained 45 yards on 10 carries and scored their first touchdown, left with a mild concussion in the first half and didnít return.
Thomas made it 17-7 with a 23-yard touchdown run on third-and-2. It capped a 70-yard drive helped greatly by a pass interference call against Charles Brown on a ball that was well over the head of Boykin. The whistle came on a third-and-13 from the Tar Heels 44.
After an exchange of punts, Thomas hit Boykin for 39 yards to the Tar Heels 27. Josh Oglesby followed with runs of 13 and 10 yards, and Thomas hit D.J. Coles with a beautiful throw on a fade route to the right corner of the end zone, pushing the lead to 24-7 late in the quarter.
Only then did the Tar Heels start moving the ball, but they ran out of time.
Virginia Tech drove to the North Carolina 26 on its second possession, but Thomas missed Boykin on fourth-and-4. The Tar Heels appeared poised to double their lead, driving to the Hokies 5, but Antone Exum stripped Houston, and Derrick Hopkins recovered for Tech.
That started an 18-play, 95-yard drive for the Hokies that featured three third-down conversions and a 2-yard run on fourth-and-1 by Thomas. The 6-foot-6, 254-pounder had scrambled for 18 yards on third-and-19, and then pushed the pile after appearing to have been stopped.
Three plays later, he hit Chris Drager from 11 yards out for the tying touchdown.
After failing to get a first down, the Tar Heels gave the Hokies a short field when Dion Guy was called for fair-catch interference, and Virginia Tech took over at the Tar Heels 34.
David Wilson covered the first 33 on the next play, but when two rushes by Wilson and one by Thomas netted minus-4 yards, Cody Journell made it 10-7 with a 22-yard field goal.
The Hokies found themselves in familiar territory early ó trailing ó very quickly.
On the gameís first play from scrimmage, Sylvester Williams hit Thomas from behind and stripped the ball. Tydreke Powell recovered for the Tar Heels at the Hokies 20.
Renner hit Dwight Jones for 18 yards on the second play, and Bernard ran it in from the 4 on the next play, giving North Carolina a 7-0 lead after just 1:18. It was the seventh time the opponent has scored first against Virginia Tech this season, and the Hokies were 5-1 in those.
Follow Hank Kurz on Twitter at http://twitter.com/hankkurzjr
The Associated Press