It took six overtimes, but North Carolina’s game against Virginia Tech on Saturday night finally ended. But it wasn’t how the Tar Heels hoped it would end.
UNC got the ball to start the sixth overtime period and was stopped.
Virginia Tech received the next possession and won the game 43-41 on a quarterback draw by Virginia Tech quarterback Quincy Patterson II. The Hokies were down to their third-string quarterback, after starter Hendon Hooker went down with an injury, and Ryan Willis struggled.
But that didn’t matter. The Tar Heels couldn’t stop Patterson. His 53-yard rushing touchdown in the fourth quarter tied the score and sent it to the first overtime.
With the loss, the Tar Heels now fall to 3-4 on the season and are one game back in the ACC Coastal Division. The loss is a huge setback for UNC, which appeared to be hitting its stride after a close loss to Clemson and a 38-21 win over Georgia Tech the following week.
The Tar Heels have now lost four consecutive games to Virginia Tech dating back to the 2016 season.
They will face Duke next Saturday at home.
“We had our opportunities time and time and time again and when you get those opportunities, you’ve got to take them,” UNC coach Mack Brown said after the game. “And we just didn’t do that tonight.”
The Tar Heels multiple opportunities to win the game. After 68-yard touchdown pass from Sam Howell to Antoine Green gave UNC a 31-24 lead with 5:11 left, the Tar Heels’ defense had an opportunity to stop Virginia Tech. But Patterson’s 53-yard touchdown kept the Hokies in the game.
Patterson finished with 128 rushing yards.
And in triple overtime, after Virginia Tech kicker Brian Johnson missed his field goal, UNC kicker Noah Ruggles had a chance to win the game on a 34-yard field goal attempt. But he missed it wide right.
Howell finished 26 of 49 for 348 yards and five touchdowns.
“To lose a game that close in six overtimes, it’s heartbreaking, but we’ve got to get back and beat Duke next week,” Howell said.
UNC wide receiver Dazz Newsome, who is from Hampton, Virginia, had one of his best games of the season Saturday.
His 47-yard touchdown catch from Howell gave the Tar Heels an early 7-0 lead. Both Newsome’s brother and father played football for Virginia Tech. He considered going there as well. He finished with nine receptions for 112 yards and two touchdowns.
The Tar Heels recovered two fumbles on Saturday. Entering Saturday’s game, UNC’s defense had recovered only one fumble all year, which was ranked 121st out of 130 teams in the country. It had twice as many against Virginia Tech.
While the Tar Heels forced two turnovers and won the turnover battle 2-0, their offense did nothing with it. The Hokies fumbled inside their own territory in the first quarter, but the Tar Heels managed only three points out of it.
UNC linebacker Jeremiah Gemmel forced a fumble in the third quarter near midfield. But on the Tar Heels’ next drive, they punted.
A touchdown on either drive would have made this an easier game for the Tar Heels.
UNC senior defensive tackle Jason Strowbridge went down with an injury early in the fourth quarter. He stayed on the ground for a while but managed to walk off on this own power. He seemed to be favoring his ankle. Strowbridge, who is 6-5 and 285 pounds, missed the entire spring with an ankle injury.
He is one of UNC’s best players. He has played in all but one game this year. In that game, the Tar Heels’ defensive line struggled. Strowbridge returned late in the fourth quarter.
20 Howell broke the UNC single-season freshman record for most touchdown passes. The record was previously held by Darian Durant. Howell has also thrown two or more touchdown passes in all seven games this season.
5 Howell threw five touchdown passes against the Hokies, which tied a school record.
291 Virginia Tech rushing yards. The Hokies had 60 rush attempts. The Tar Heels knew what they were doing but could not stop them.