BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — It was just before gametime Saturday when North Carolina coach Larry Fedora learned for certain that the Tar Heels' chances against surging Virginia Tech were going to be a whole lot slimmer.
Bryn Renner, who had started the last 29 games at quarterback, couldn't push off on his injured left ankle, and sophomore Marquise Williams was going to have to replace him at quarterback.
Against the No. 5 defense in the country.
Williams acquitted himself well in his first significant collegiate action, dispelling the notion that he's a running quarterback with limited passing skills by completing 23 of 35 passes for 277 yards and two touchdowns, but he also made a key mistake that ended the Tar Heels' hoping of pulling an upset.
"I thought the kid did a heck of a job stepping in for Bryn," Fedora said after Virginia Tech's 27-17 victory, adding "there's only one throw he made that we would like to have back."
Williams' mistake came on a fourth-and-1 play from the Hokies' 33. The Tar Heels trailed 21-10 at the time, and North Carolina's defense was routinely stopping the Hokies with little trouble. But when Williams tried to hit Jack Tabb on the play, Kyle Fuller intercepted, and the threat was squelched.
Fedora, at least, saw some things he liked from his team, which gave up 603 yards last week in a home loss to East Carolina, and blew a 20-7 lead a week earlier in a 28-20 loss to Georgia Tech.
"We played hard," the coach said. "It was good to see our guys turn loose a bit and play, but we just made too many mistakes on the road to be able to win a game like that."
Logan Thomas matched his career high with three touchdown passes for the Hokies. They all came in the first half as the Hokies (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) hung on to win their fifth straight.
The loss was the third straight for the Tar Heels (1-4, 0-2), who later also fumbled a punt, leading to the Hokies' final TD rendering Williams' 24-yard scoring pass with 1:09 left inconsequential.