CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (AP)—It felt just like old times for Virginia Tech. The 16th-ranked Hokies blocked a punt, forced a fumble and returned an interception for a touchdown.
For one day, anyway, Beamerball was back.
The Hokies’ dominating defense and special teams set up two of Branden Ore’s three TDs in Tech’s 35-10 victory over North Carolina on Saturday.
“It’s effort—when you get there, getting things blocked. Right now, we’re doing that,” said coach Frank Beamer, the namesake of the punishing special-teams style that helped the Hokies gain national notoriety.
Ore finished with 111 yards and scoring runs of 1, 4 and 3 yards. Virginia Tech (2-0, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) improved to 9-0 in ACC road games since joining the league in 2004.
Xavier Adibi returned an interception 40 yards to set up Ore’s first touchdown. Josh Morgan blocked a punt inside the North Carolina 10 to set up another, and Brenden Hill scored on a 69-yard interception return.
“When the special teams gives you great field position like that, you just got to make sure you capitalize,” Ore said. “You don’t want to get three (points) out of that situation. You always want to get six points.”
North Carolina outgained Virginia Tech 268-224, but it was the Hokies’ punishing defense and special teams that made the difference.
Tech intercepted four passes, recovered a fumble, blocked a punt in its second straight game and victimized North Carolina punter David Wooldridge for the second year in a row.
“We gave them 21 points, and the defense just gave them 14,” North Carolina running back Ronnie McGill said.
Sean Glennon, a sophomore making his second career start, was 10-of-17 for 66 yards for Tech. Redshirt freshman Ike Whitaker, Glennon’s backup, completed his only pass—a 41-yard touchdown to Greg Boone with about five minutes left.
Ore became the second running back in two weeks to score three touchdowns against North Carolina, joining Rutgers’ Ray Rice, who rushed for 201 yards and three scores in the opener.
“There were little creases in the run support that we were seeing, and that’s what we attacked,” Ore said.
Tech trailed 3-0 late in the first quarter before Adibi got the Hokies rolling. He picked off Joe Dailey’s pass at the 41 and returned it to the North Carolina 1. Ore scored on the next play to put Tech ahead to stay.
“That’s what good teams are made of—when the offense isn’t going good, helping out the offense and giving them good field position,” Adibi said. “Any time you get an interception in a critical time in the game, momentum’s going to shift your way.”
Then, just before halftime, the Hokies’ trademark strong special teams helped them build on their lead.
Morgan—a wide receiver used to returning punts not blocking them—burst up the middle and swatted Wooldridge’s punt at the Tar Heels’ 7. Jason Adjepong returned it to the 1.
“(The Tar Heels coaches) always hounded us about how good their special teams were,” Wooldridge said.
“He’s skilled enough to return a kick, and he’s tough enough and strong enough and explosive enough to block a kick,” Beamer said.
Two plays later, Ore scored from 4 yards out to put Tech ahead 14-3.
“To give up to any team 14 points on two yards of total offense is always disappointing, and usually will cost you the game,” North Carolina coach John Bunting said.
Dailey was 10-of-17 for 55 yards and was intercepted twice for the Tar Heels (0-2, 0-1). His backup, redshirt freshman Cam Sexton, was 9-of-21 for 120 yards and was picked off twice, including the fourth-quarter interception Hill returned for a score. The Tar Heels have eight turnovers in two games.
“Turning the ball over is killing us,” Sexton said.
Sexton also had an 18-yard touchdown pass to Brooks Foster in the final minutes against Tech’s backups.
Connor Barth capped North Carolina’s opening possession with a 46-yard field goal.
But after that, the Tar Heels had trouble moving the ball against Tech’s defense until late in the game.
“That’s hard against our defense,” Beamer said. “We do it all the time in practice, and our inexperienced offense has a tough time, so I knew what those two (Tar Heels) quarterbacks were going through.”