Visiting Tar Heels take out No. 14 Hokies

By Mark Viera
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, October 30, 2009

BLACKSBURG, Va. ¿ The Orange Effect was the theme on Thursday, so Virginia Tech's players wore orange jerseys instead of their typical home maroon. It was part marketing move, part subliminal symbolism.

Although the No. 14 Hokies might have been out of the national title conversation, they still entered the night with an outside chance to win their third consecutive Atlantic Coast Conference championship and to make the accompanying trip to the Orange Bowl.

But on a crisp night here, Virginia Tech's conference title hopes seemed to evaporate with a 20-17 loss to North Carolina in front of a sellout crowd of 66,233 at Lane Stadium.

The Tar Heels won the game with a 21-yard field goal by Casey Barth as time expired.

Hokies running back Ryan Williams fumbled with 2 minutes 2 seconds to give North Carolina possession on the Virginia Tech 24-yard line. The Tar Heels drained the clock before Barth connected on the game-ending kick.

While North Carolina players stormed the field and celebrated, Williams lingered on the bench as he was consoled by injured running backs Darren Evans and Kenny Lewis.

"As of right now, there probably isn't anything you can do to lift me up," Williams said after rushing for 96 yards on 23 carries. "Regardless of what we say, I feel personally I took the game away from us today. It was on the line, it was in my hands, and I fumbled."

The game seemed like it would be a cathartic opportunity for the Hokies to put the past behind them. Since its 28-23 loss at Georgia Tech on Oct. 17, Virginia Tech has been haunted by questions about its missed opportunity to control the ACC's Coastal Division.

But with the loss to the Tar Heels (5-3, 1-3), Virginia Tech is left wondering what happened to its season. The Hokies (5-3, 3-2) are in the middle of the Coastal Division standings and appear fast-tracked for a second-tier bowl game.

"I firmly believe we're a good football team," Coach Frank Beamer said. "The problem we've got is we're not consistently good offensively, defensively and on special teams. But particularly offensively and defensively, we haven't reached that [level of] consistently good."

In the first half, Virginia Tech's offense had little success as it repeatedly tried to throw into North Carolina's lock-down secondary. In the second half, Virginia Tech's defense could not stop a Tar Heels offense that ranked 114th nationally before Thursday.

"They've got some good players," Beamer said. "They took it to us."

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