Hokies look to rebound this year vs. Tar Heels
Virginia Tech is drawing from last year's loss to North Carolina to keep it from happening again.
The Hokies (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished 7-6 a year ago, their worst record in 20 years, and their meeting with North Carolina on Saturday served as a painful, but useful reminder.
The Tar Heels (1-3, 0-1) ran for 339 yards in a 48-34 victory.
"We remember the loss," quarterback Logan Thomas said this week. "We don't want to take a loss like that again, and I think that's going to help motivate us and get us better for this upcoming week."
The Hokies have won four straight since a season-opening loss to top-ranked Alabama, and even freshman like cornerback Brandon Facyson have been well-schooled in the best way to keep the success going.
"You have to take it one step at a time with no steps back. If you take care of the little things, then the big things will come," he said. "So we're just going to take it one step at a time and just continue to get better offensively and defensively and we're just going to go from there.
"We're going to work harder each and every week in order to get to that big picture."
North Carolina, meanwhile, would love to get back to last year's form.
These Tar Heels gave up 603 yards last week in a 55-31 loss to East Carolina. That came a week after North Carolina allowed Georgia Tech to score the last 21 points in a 28-20 Coastal Division victory.
The losing prompted a players-only meeting this week, and some harsh words from associate head coach for defense Vic Koenning, who criticized the team's leadership and preparedness against ECU.
"Every play in practice, I'm fighting somebody to go the ball harder or focus more," Koenning said Wednesday. "It's like I'm in a fist-fight with whoever the heavyweight champion is every day, just trying to get these guys to do the right things and do it as fast and as hard as they can."
Here are five things to watch for Saturday when North Carolina plays at Virginia Tech:
LABORING LOGAN: Thomas missed practice all last week because of an abdominal strain, then ran 16 times and made 25 painful throws in the Hokies' victory against Georgia Tech. Hurting or not, the fifth-year senior is determined to make his final season better than the dismal 7-6 finish of last season. If tailbacks Trey Edmunds and J.C. Coleman can get untracked running the ball, it would help him greatly.
TAR HEELS' RESPONSE: The Tar Heels' associate head coach for defense, Vic Koenning, issued a challenge to his defense when he trashed the unit for demonstrating a lack of leadership and said they played "extremely poor" in a 55-31 loss to East Carolina. The players held a meeting, and free safety Tre Boston said the intensity has picked up in practice.
RUSHING RENNER: The Hokies have the nation's fifth-ranked pass defense, as much because of their pass rush as their defensive backs. If they can rush Bryn Renner into some bad passes, they could put this one away early.
THE MEANING OF HISTORY: Virginia Tech won at East Carolina, 15-10; the Pirates beat the Tar Heels 55-31 last week. Virginia Tech won at Georgia Tech, 17-10; the Yellow Jackets scored the last 21 points and beat the Tar Heels 28-20. If the Hokies think those mean too much, the Tar Heels could surprise.
FIELD GOALS: If it comes down to this, the Hokies could be in trouble. The Tar Heels' Thomas Moore has made all four of his field goal tries, with a long of 39 yards. Virginia Tech's Cody Journell was 20 for 25 last year, but has made only 3 of 6 this year, and has missed three of his last four attempts.
AP sports writers Joedy McCreary and Aaron Beard contributed from Chapel Hill, N.C.