CHAPEL HILL, N.C. —
This Virginia Tech team is doing all sorts of un-Hokie-like things lately.
Allowing huge chunks of rushing yards. Giving up big plays on special teams. And losing at North Carolina.
The Hokies’ worst start in two decades continued Saturday when they allowed Gio Bernard to gain a career-high 262 yards rushing in a 48-34 loss to the Tar Heels — their first loss in Chapel Hill since 1938.
Logan Thomas was 26 of 49 for 354 yards with a 13-yard touchdown run and two long touchdown passes. Demitri Knowles took a kickoff 93 yards for a TD for the young Hokies (3-3, 1-1 Atlantic Coast Conference).
They rushed for just 40 yards and are saddled with their worst record through six games since they were 2-3-1 in 1992 — the year before starting their 19-year streak of consecutive bowl appearances.
Yet they insist there’s plenty of time to figure out how to at least make sure they get to a 20th straight bowl.
“We’ll get this together and turn it around. We still have everything that we want to achieve in front of us,” cornerback Antone Exum said. “We’ve only lost one conference game, so we have six opportunities left. We’ve just got to be able to put it together for four quarters. I don’t believe that a Virginia Tech team will ever be just a regular college team.”
North Carolina sure made the Hokies looked that way. In addition to Bernard’s big day, Sean Tapley returned a kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown and added a 19-yard scoring catch from Bryn Renner. The Tar Heels (4-2, 1-1) won their third straight and rolled up 533 total yards.
“It’s still early in the year, but ... this was a great measuring stick for us,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “This was Virginia Tech. They dominated the coastal Division, and we needed to go out there and play a complete game against them.”
A.J. Blue ran for touchdowns of 1 and 13 yards, and Renner finished 17 of 30 for 194 yards with a touchdown pass and a 4-yard scoring run.
“I don’t think it’s time for excuses,” coach Frank Beamer said. “I think it’s time for results.”
Bernard surpassed his previous best of 165 yards set last year against Duke, and nobody has rushed for more yards against a Virginia Tech team.
“That doesn’t happen against Virginia Tech very much,” Beamer said.
Bernard also became the Tar Heels’ first 200-yard rusher since Ronnie McGill rolled up 244 against Wake Forest in 2003. He surpassed Tech’s rushing total on two separate rushes — a 51-yarder in the third quarter that pushed him past the 200-yard mark, and a 62-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-1 on the first play of the second quarter that put the Tar Heels ahead to stay.
“He’s standing there, and I said, ‘Look, you’ve got to get six inches here,”’ Fedora said. “And he was like, ‘Well, I’ll get more than that.”’
North Carolina began to pull away midway through the third quarter, going ahead 35-20 on the Renner-to-Tapley touchdown pass before Knowles took the ensuing kickoff back for a touchdown.
Virginia Tech went for two, trying to make it a one-score game, but Thomas’ pass over the middle didn’t have a chance, and the Tar Heels scored the next two times they touched the ball.
Casey Barth kicked field goals of 44 and 40 yards for North Carolina. Its 48 points were the most scored in the series by either team, and the Tar Heels gained at least 500 total yards for the third time under their new coach.
“I came to Virginia Tech because we’re known to play great defense,” defensive end James Gayle said.
“I feel like today we let the team down.”
Thomas threw an early 49-yard touchdown pass to Marcus Davis and added a 66-yarder to Corey Fuller with 8:55 left for the Hokies, who lost for just the sixth time in 33 ACC road games.