The North Carolina Tar Heels football season kicks off on August 30th against the Liberty Flames at home in Kenan Stadium. To get you ready for the nationally ranked Tar Heel’s first game, Keeping It Heel will have an extensive football preview series previewing all of Carolina’s positions, games and reviewing 2013′s games. Check back to Keeping It Heel every afternoon for new preview posts. Today, let’s preview UNC Football second game against San Diego State.
The road to the ACC Coastal Division title seemingly always goes through Blacksburg, Virginia and the Frank Beamer-led Virginia Tech Hokies. Va Tech has won four conference championships since they joined the league in 2004. They have also won the ACC Coastal division five times, most recently in 2011.
The Tar Heels are aiming for that success, but in order to do so, they must be able to consistently beat the Hokies. In the first year of the Larry Fedora era in Chapel Hill, the Heels were able to beat the Hokies in front of a white-out crowd on October 6th, 2012. Giovanni Bernard had a heck of the day and scored the touchdown that changed the game- a 62 yard burst of speed on fourth and one that put the Tar Heels up 20-14.
Last season, the Tar Heels had to travel to Lane Stadium, always a tough atmosphere. The path to victory for the Heels was also made much when news broke that Bryn Renner would miss the game due to injury. In stepped Marquise Williams for his first start, and he didn’t do too poorly considering the circumstances. Williams threw for 277 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions.
Virginia Tech jumped out to an early 14-0 lead as the Tar Heel offense struggled to get going with Williams under center. But Williams rallied, throwing up a jump ball in the endzone to Eric Ebron, who came down with the spectacular catch to the delight of his young quarterback.
The score was 21-10 heading into the fourth quarter, and the Tar Heel offense was moving pretty well now that Marquise Williams had found his footing. Again a drive stalled out and Coach Fedora opted to aggressively go for it on fourth and one, this time from the Virginia Tech 33 yard line. In a play that changed the game, Marquise Williams stood tall on the play action pass and lofted a throw to Jack Tabb, but Tech’s Kyle Fuller expertly jumped in front of the pass and intercepted it, giving Virginia Tech possession and securing the victory for the maroon and orange clad Hokies.
Two games, two fourth and ones, two very different outcomes for the Tar Heels. In 2014, when the two teams play again in October with Coastal Division title hopes hanging in the balance, the two teams will again be evenly matched. Virginia Tech lost quarterback Logan Thomas and pieces from their defense, like Kyle Fuller, but they will still be stout on both sides of the ball. The Heels get the home field advantage this year and a Marquise Williams that is much more experienced.
I wouldn’t be surprised if again the game came down to a fourth and one, Carolina’s offense against Virginia Tech’s defense, with the game on the line. In 2012, UNC won the fourth and one and the game. In 2013, Virginia Tech won the fourth and one and the game. Heading into Coach Fedora’s third season, the series is tied up one-one and I can’t wait to see who wins the next one.