North Carolina

UNC clinches Coastal with 30-27 overtime victory at Virginia Tech

North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams (12) looks for running room in the second quarter against Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va.
North Carolina quarterback Marquise Williams (12) looks for running room in the second quarter against Virginia Tech at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Va. rwillett@newsobserver.com

In a season that is becoming defined by its grit and toughness, North Carolina added another memorable chapter – perhaps its most memorable – with a 30-27 overtime victory at Virginia Tech on Saturday.

The Tar Heels with the victory clinched the ACC’s Coastal Division and spoiled Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer’s final home game. And they did all of that after surrendering a two-touchdown lead in the final minutes of regulation.

UNC led 24-10 with less than eight minutes to play in regulation but Virginia Tech cut its deficit to 24-17 with little less than three minutes to play. Then, after UNC quarterback Marquise Williams fumbled – one of his three in the game – and the Hokies recovered, Virginia Tech tied the game with 67 seconds left.

The game went into overtime, where Williams atoned for his turnovers with a 5-yard game-winning touchdown pass to Quinshad Davis, after UNC had held the Hokies to a field goal on the first possession of overtime.

With the win, UNC will play Clemson Dec. 5 in the ACC Championship game.

Turning point

The game had many turning points, from Nazair Jones’ forced fumble and recovery that turned momentum in UNC’s favor at the end of the third quarter to the Hokies’ late touchdowns that tied the game at the end of regulation. The final turning point came on the final play of the game: Williams’ 5-yard touchdown pass to Davis on a 3rd-and-goal.

Three who mattered

Marquise Williams: He shook off one of his worst games of the season – the three turnovers were a season-high – to be at his best in overtime. Before his touchdown pass, he set UNC up with a first-and-goal with an 18-yard pass to Ryan Switzer.

Elijah Hood: He eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark on the season with 115 yards rushing and two touchdowns – both in the fourth quarter. He was the bright spot for UNC’s offense, especially during regulation.

Shakeel Rashad: Led UNC’s stout, physical defensive effort with 15 tackles, which included one sack and another tackle for loss.

Key numbers

3 Turnovers UNC forced in the second half, all of them coming after Virginia Tech tied the game at 10 late in the third quarter. The Tar Heels had their own ball security issues but they likely don’t win without those defensive plays.

8 Times UNC punted, a season high. The number of punts reflects the difficulty UNC had moving the ball for long stretches on Saturday.

9 UNC penalties, seven of which came on false starts.

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