Hokies Open ACC Season With Rout of North Carolina
Sunday, September 10, 2006
CHAPEL HILL, N.C., Sept. 9 -- They studied the screens in the meeting rooms all week, and as play after play of the North Carolina football team's offense unfolded on tape, Joe Dailey became a marked man.
Virginia Tech's linebackers and defensive backs noticed that Dailey, UNC's quarterback, would stare down his chosen receiver from snap to release. Pass after pass, the key to beating the Tar Heels became apparent: Watch Dailey's eyes, and the ball will follow.
The Hokies turned the tip into four interceptions, two of Dailey, and an overwhelming defensive performance, carrying Tech, even with a passing game stuck in neutral, to a 35-10 win at Kenan Stadium in its ACC opener. Defense and special teams scored a touchdown and set up two one-yard touchdown drives, and running back Branden Ore took care of the rest, scoring three touchdowns and producing 148 yards of total offense.
It was a quintessential Virginia Tech performance under Coach Frank Beamer, with a swarming defense and a special teams unit snaring loose balls and turning them into touchdowns. After blocking only two kicks last season, Virginia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC) has blocked three already this year. Beamer Ball, it seems, is back.
"That," Beamer said, "was about right today."
While the passing game sputtered -- Sean Glennon threw for just 66 yards -- Ore plowed his way around and through the Tar Heels' defense. He carried the ball 22 times for 111 yards and three scores.
"It pretty much came down to me carrying the load," Ore said. "If that's what it takes, I'm all for it. I don't say, 'Give me the ball.' I'm not that type of guy. I give them a little hint."
Ore shined, but the defense earned the victory. North Carolina (0-2, 0-1) started three of its first five drives inside the Virginia Tech 38-yard line, but managed just a 46-yard field goal on its first possession. The Hokies held the Tar Heels to 268 total yards. Tech's defense carried the offense, something it might have to do while Glennon, a first-year starter, and a green offensive line gain experience.
"That's our mentality always," safety Aaron Rouse said. "If we've got to carry them for the year, that's what we're willing to do."
With the Tar Heels leading 3-0 as the first quarter wound down, Xavier Adibi watched Dailey as he dropped back on a third down. His gaze clung to Dailey's eyes, locked on a receiver, just as the film promised. Adibi knew the ball was coming before Dailey even released it and stepped forward to intercept the pass, returning it to the 1.
"You go to take that to the house," Rouse jokingly told him on the sideline. "The quarterback can't tackle you."
Ore dived into the end zone on the next play, giving Tech its first lead, 7-3.
After a turnover, Carolina found itself again deep in Tech's territory, facing a first down from the 15-yard line. This time, Rouse would take advantage of a giveaway by Dailey, intercepting a pass one yard deep in the end zone. "When you get down by the end zone, you need big-time playmakers to step up and make that play," Rouse said. "I think that was the turning point in the game. We knew we wouldn't be denied today."
After Rouse's interception, the Hokies' drive stalled, and UNC Coach John Bunting inserted Cameron Sexton at quarterback. That led to a three-and-out, brining on the punt team. Beamer had noticed a leak in Carolina's punt protection he had not seen on film, so he sent Josh Morgan, usually the punt returner, to the left edge of the line.
Morgan charged at punter David Wooldridge unimpeded after breaking through a hole, but he tripped over a teammate's foot just as he arrived. Morgan scrambled to a half-crawl and laid out, blocking the punt at the exact moment Wooldridge booted it.
Jason Adjepong scooped the ball in a scrum that rumbled six yards to the 1-yard line. After an illegal substitution penalty, Ore stiff-armed his way to the right pylon for a four-yard touchdown run that made it 14-3.
"I felt the momentum," Morgan said. "We were kind of struggling. Beamer Ball always brings excitement."
Ore scored his third touchdown to cap the Hokies' lone sustained scoring drive in the third quarter, making it 21-3. Brenden Hill sealed the game, if hadn't already been finished off, when he picked off Sexton and ran back a touchdown with 6 minutes 43 seconds left in the game to make it 28-3.
"We don't want to give up any touchdown," Rouse said. "We don't want to give up anything. You got to take pride. Our backs were against the wall, and we stepped up and made big plays."