Virginia Tech entered its homecoming matchup with ACC Coastal contender North Carolina with a 4–2 record with losses to Boston College and Duke. It seemed like this was the game that could either put the Hokies’ season back on track or dig them deeper into a hole.
After what was a back-and-forth game that went into six overtime periods, Virginia Tech showed fight on the field and advanced to 5-2 despite having to make multiple mid-game adjustments. The offense and defense proved they can stay composed throughout a tough 60 minutes of regulation, and then six overtimes on top of that. After a hard-fought game, the Hokies conveniently have a bye week to prepare for its game against No. 8 Notre Dame on Nov. 2.
“We didn’t handle adversity very well [in the Duke game]," said defensive coordinator Bud Foster. "I really thought the last few weeks we've handled our situations better; it's something we've really addressed. They fought to the very end. I’m just really proud of them.”
After Hendon Hooker went down near the end of the second quarter, redshirt freshman Quincy Patterson was ultimately subbed in after a few plays from Ryan Willis. Throughout the game, Patterson was very conservative with throwing the ball and came away with 122 net rushing yards, proving he can deliver while the pressure is high. He sealed the game up in the sixth overtime period by running the ball into the endzone himself.
Fuente reported that he thought Hooker might play in the second half, but he didn’t end up getting in. However, Fuente doesn’t believe Hooker’s injury is long-term. This raises the question of who will start against Notre Dame. The more experienced Hooker, or quarterback on the rise Patterson?
The game comes with many positive takeaways that would still exist even if the result had flipped the other way. Most starters are healthy and have shown they can play at a high level against a talented opponent, including true freshman defensive linemen Norell Pollard, who recorded his first career start against UNC. He played strong and composed and contributed two sacks. Foster believes he is a quick learner and has exceeded his expectations since arriving to campus.
The dynamic in Lane Stadium has changed since the Duke game; the fans brought the energy all the way through six overtimes in the rain. It truly became an intimidating environment for UNC.
“Look at Lane Stadium. It feels good to have the fans stay for the full game,” said receiver Tré Turner.
Virginia Tech has a lot on the line this season: a 26-year bowl streak, which is currently the country’s longest, and the Commonwealth Cup, which it has held for 15 consecutive years.
To guarantee a spot in a bowl game in the postseason, the Hokies must finish with a record of at least 7–5 on the season. Only one of the two wins against FCS schools Furman and Rhode Island will count toward bowl eligibility.
It’s less about record, though, and more about how the team is performing on the field. While the team is taking the season one game at a time, fans can’t help but look forward to the Commonwealth Cup against a solid Virginia team Nov. 29 in Charlottesville. With Virginia now also sitting at 5–2, the Commonwealth Cup could end up being the deciding factor as to who represents the ACC Coastal in the ACC Championship.
This win is certainly a confidence boost for the team, coaches and fans. This Virginia Tech performance looked the most put-together so far this season on both sides of the ball, and if it can keep the momentum going, the Hokies have a real chance of being a threat to ACC teams throughout the remainder of the conference schedule.
“We all have heart. That’s something that you can’t coach,” Turner said.