Quick Hitters - North Carolina at Virginia Tech

Isaac Schade presents Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 17-10 road loss to Virginia Tech on Friday evening in Blacksburg.
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Quick Hitters from North Carolina’s 17-10 road loss to Virginia Tech on Friday evening.

Highlights:

Condensed Game:

  • Congrats to Sam Howell, who passed Darian Durant to become the all-time leader in career touchdown passes for Carolina (69) with this beautiful tunnel screen to Josh Downs:
  • 208 passing yards for Sam Howell, the fourth lowest of his career and lowest since 152 vs. Mercer on November 23, 2019 in his freshman season. Here’s the list of his five lowest single-game passing yardage totals at Carolina: 
  • The MVP of at least the first quarter goes to the Virginia Tech offensive line unit. The Hokies kept the ball on the ground for 17 of their first 20 offensive plays. For the quarter, Virginia Tech had the ball for 12:30. Additionally, this ball domination served to keep Sam Howell off the field and ultimately stopped the offense from ever getting in a rhythm.
  • Before the Tar Heels stopped Virginia Tech on 3rd down just before halftime, the Hokies were successful on their first six 3rd down opportunities.
  • Here’s the good news: Virginia Tech had six more 3rd down chances in the second half. They failed on each one of them. The problem is that Carolina was 0-for-5 themselves on 3rd down in the second half.
  • The Tar Heels allowed the Hokies to convert two 3rd-&-15s and a 3rd-&-14. As Coach Brown said in his postgame press conference, "You just can't do any of that."
  • Carolina had 18 first downs; one by penalty, eight through the air, and nine rushing. Of the nine on the ground, Howell accounted for four of them; four of the first five rushing first downs, in fact. Much of the night, it felt like Howell’s legs were Carolina’s best offensive weapon. For the Tar Heels to find weekly success, that reality must change.
  • To that point, the leading rusher for the night was…Sam Howell. He rushed 13 times for 70 yards (although his net total was 35 due to sacks…more on that in a minute). Beyond that, Tennessee transfer Ty Chandler had the most touches with 10 for 68 yards. Chandler, however, was not targeted in the passing game.
  • DJ Jones also had a few nice moments in the backfield, but he got absolutely rocked on a play when Khafre Brown missed a block. Jones caught a short pass and as soon as he turned upfield was upended and crumpled in a mangled head-first heap.
  • The defense really struggled in the first half, but found a groove in the second half. The Hokies went three-and-out on their first two possessions. The problem was that while the defense started to figure things out, the offense never really did. They certainly were trending in the right direction in the second half, but never fully got rolling.
  • Sam Howell was sacked six (6!!) times. He also finished with three interceptions (all in the second half) – albeit two weren’t his fault (one was tipped, one was wrestled away from the receiver) and the third was in a desperate attempt to extend a play and save yardage in the waning moments.
  • Josh Downs is definitely the new favorite target in the receiving game for Sam Howell. Downs caught nine passes on 11 targets for 132 yards and one touchdown. Perhaps most telling is Downs' ability to make things happen on his own – 83 of his 132 yards (62.9%) were yards after the catch. Emery Simmons was right behind Downs with nine targets, but he only caught three for 46 yards.
  • Never forget what a great asset kicker Jonathan Kim is. Three touchbacks on three kickoffs tonight. He won’t hit 100% every game, but his consistency is a huge relief for the coaching staff.
  • When all was said and done, Carolina actually out-gained Virginia Tech 354-296, but didn’t do enough to put more points on the scoreboard. Back to the drawing board this week.
  • Ja’Quirious Conley led the team with five solo tackles, although his seven total tackles tied for the team lead with Trey Morrison, Eugene Assante, and Jeremiah Gemmel. Conley also had a nice open-field tackle on shifty Hokie quarterback Braxton Burmeister as well as an interception.

 

Box Score

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Mack Brown postgame press conference

Players postgame press conference

Jeremiah Gemmel

Sam Howell

Remember to check in for Quick Hitters after every North Carolina football game. Next up is a home game against Georgia State on Saturday, September 11. Kickoff is at 7:30pm ET on Regional Sports Networks.

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