- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 21, 2008

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. | Nothing - not the scoreboard, the stats or the momentum - seemed to favor Virginia Tech against a young North Carolina team out to prove it is ready to contend for a conference title.

It turned out the Hokies had the Tar Heels just where they wanted them.

Dustin Keys kicked the go-ahead 45-yard field goal to cap Virginia Tech’s comeback from a two-touchdown deficit in the second half and beat North Carolina 20-17 on Saturday, taking a matchup of ACC division favorites and winning its fifth straight meeting.

Kenny Lewis Jr. and Darren Evans each ran for second-half touchdowns for the Hokies (3-1, 2-0 ACC), who struggled much of the game and trailed 17-3 midway through the third quarter.

Sure, the offense was iffy (268 total yards), the defense wasn’t all that stingy (307 yards allowed) and the Hokies’ vaunted special teams couldn’t come up with one of their trademark game-changing plays. None of that mattered; the Hokies came out on top as they always seem to do in ACC road games.

“We never claim to be pretty,” coach Frank Beamer said. “But I give our players and coaches credit for hanging in there and finding a way to win. That’s the bottom line is to be able to win and win together as a football team. I thought our team did a great job of that.”

Virginia Tech improved to 16-1 on the road in the league since joining the conference in 2004.

“To come back like this is the best win ever because everybody is stickin’ in. Everybody is saying, ‘We’re family, and we need to pull this out together,’” said Evans, who ran for 61 yards to lead the Hokies. “That’s what we did.”

The Tar Heels (2-1, 0-1) figured this was their shot to prove they had arrived as a rising league power in Butch Davis’ second season. Instead, it all turned into a painful reminder that the rebuilding project will not be an overnight success.

“They’re the type of program that they’re not going to give you a lot of easy things,” Davis said. “You’re not going to go out there and run up and down the field offensively, and you’re not just going to dominate them defensively. It’s going to be a tight fit, and you cannot waste opportunities.”

Brandon Tate scored his fifth touchdown of the season for the Tar Heels with a 32-yard catch late in the first half, while Greg Little broke free up the middle for a 50-yard run and the 17-3 lead with 6:44 to play in the third quarter. But things unraveled quickly, starting when quarterback T.J. Yates went down with a sprained left ankle on the possession before Little’s score.

North Carolina finished with 14 penalties for 121 yards - including a pair on third down to extend the Hokies’ first touchdown drive - while committing four turnovers, miscues made worse when they lost Yates after he was sacked by Orion Martin.

Yates completed 11 of 18 passes for 181 yards and a score before leaving the stadium briefly for X-rays, which didn’t show a fracture. He returned and watched the final minutes from a training table and will be re-evaluated Sunday.

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