College Football: Virginia Tech, UNC prepare for what could be epic clash
Story by Chris Graham
This is unfamiliar territory for Virginia Tech football – heading into a game in Chapel Hill as a two and a half point ‘dog.
“When you look at North Carolina, and I know we played Georgia Tech, East Carolina and Furman, but this will be the best football team we’ve played,” Tech coach Frank Beamer said in his weekly press conference on Tuesday.
“When you look at them, offensively they have everyone back except the center and they moved a guy in there that had played. I think they are very good up front. They have two receivers who are exceptional in (Hakeem) Nicks and (Brandon) Tate, two running backs who run well and a quarterback who is playing well in (T.J.) Yates. Defensively they are athletic. They got four interceptions against Rutgers. They are an athletic, good football team. They played all those young kids last year and now they are a year older. As I said, the best football team we will have played so far,” Beamer said.
UNC is coming off a 44-12 rout of Rutgers last Thursday night that got the ACC’s attention, certainly, especially in the wake of what had been a struggle in the Heels’ 35-27 season-opening win over I-AA McNeese State on Aug. 30.
Quarterback T.J. Yates has looked solid through two weeks, completing 60.4 percent of his passes for 442 yards and five touchdowns and just one interception. And the running game has been impressive as well, racking up 160 yards a game on the ground.
“It’s the next step in the season for us, the approach that we’ve taken with the players is talking about every week is we’ll focus on us, we’ll focus on our football team,” second-year Carolina coach Butch Davis said. “That is the best way for us to make strides every week and certainly give ourselves the best chance to play well,” Davis said.
Davis and Beamer are not strangers at all. They used to meet regularly when Davis was at Miami and the ‘Canes and the Hokies locked horns in the Big East back in the 1990s. Davis said the ’08 Hokies look a lot like those ’90s Hokies teams that gave him fits back then. “They are probably similar to the Virginia Tech teams that I faced at Miami because they had Michael Vick for a significant amount of the years that I was there. With Tyrod Taylor, he gives them that dimension that they didn’t have last year an explosive guy that is capable of making huge, big plays. He’s got a live arm, he can pull the ball down and scrabble, he can run by design. The schemes that they are running are going to give him an opportunity to have the ball in his hands,” Davis said of the sophomore quarterback.
Beamer said the ’08 Heels are beginning to take on the look of the ’90s Hurricanes teams that Davis built into a national-championship contender before moving on to the NFL. “I think at both places, he had the ability to recruit good players. That is the way it has been, when Butch came there, UNC was on their way to having a great recruiting class that year, and Butch finished that one off,” Beamer said. “They do a really good job of recruiting, and that is the way it was at Miami. With Butch, he is going to get good players and they are going to be well-coached, and that is exactly what you got here, a really good football team with good players who are well-coached.”