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Facing third and 19 on that series, he scrambled for 18 ½ yards, eluding a pair of Tar Heels. He gave an encore performance on the next play, getting wrapped up behind the line of scrimmage but forcing himself to fall forward, creating a first down.

The running helped ease some of the pressure being brought by UNC’s defensive line, allowing the passing game to open up.

Renner didn’t have that luxury as running back Giovani Bernard left the game with a head injury in the first half and didn’t return.

North Carolina (6-5, 2-5 ACC) likely will find itself relegated to a lower-tier bowl game, while Virginia Tech (10-1, 6-1) guaranteed itself a share of the ACC Coastal Division title.

The Hokies now are one victory — or a Virginia loss — from a rematch with Clemson. The way Thomas and company were eating up yards Thursday, another Orange Bowl appearance was a warming thought on a frigid Blacksburg evening.

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