Thomas, also caught off guard by Loeffler’s play, placed even more blame on Byrn’s bum knee, which he injured last Thursday night against Georgia Tech.
“I was actually very surprised by the call, but I know how (Loeffler) is. He was ready to attack,” Thomas said. “I wish (Byrn) didn’t have a little bit of rusty wheel.”
Once the second half came around, the offense’s productivity came to a standstill, and the responsibility of holding the lead fell to the defense.
On the opening drive of the 4th quarter, trailing by 10, UNC head coach Larry Fedora elected to go for it on a fourth-and-1 on Tech’s 33-yard line. Quarterback Marquise Williams, who started in place of an injured Byrn Renner, faked a handoff and tried to connect with tight end Eric Ebron. Kyle Fuller, aware of the possibility of play-action, was with Ebron the entire way and stepped in front for the interception.
“It was huge. It was actually kind of funny — I guess I keep patting Coach Foster on the back — but before the play he was like ‘Watch the pop pass,’” linebacker Jack Tyler said. “And we all knew it was coming because they ran that same formation against us last year and ran a power play. We figured they’d probably try a pop pass off of it. We were kind of prepared for it and Kyle made a great play.”
After that stop the ACC foes traded a pair of scores but UNC’s came far too late in the contest to make a difference.
The Hokies victory, which improves their record in home conference openers under Beamer to 19-3, puts them in a favorable spot in the ACC.
“We grind. It’s not always smooth. It’s great effort, it’s togetherness, it’s keep battling,” Beamer said. “Those are things you like about this team. It’s been great. I’ve really enjoyed this group. I’ve told you from the beginning. I like this crowd and even though we’ve got a bunch of young ones running around they’re getting older all the time. I really like this crowd.”