BLACKSBURG, Va. (AP) — Justin Fuente was ever the coach after Virginia Tech’s blowout victory over North Carolina in a game in which the Hokies dominated in every phase.
“I don’t know about that,” Fuente said when asked if the performance was Virginia Tech’s most complete of the season.
It would be hard to argue against such an assessment, though.
Josh Jackson threw three touchdown passes and No. 14 Virginia Tech scored on fumble, interception and punt returns in the 59-7 rout Saturday.
Jackson passed for 132 yards and the Hokies (6-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) dominated in sending the Tar Heels (1-7, 0-5) to their fifth straight loss.
Off last week, Virginia Tech looked rested and focused and played that way, scoring in all three phases in the first half and bolting to a 35-0 halftime lead. Virginia Tech scored twice on defense, getting the first score of the game on defensive tackle Ricky Walker’s 12-yard fumble return.
The Hokies added Greg Stroman’s 91-yard punt return for a touchdown — his second punt return for a score this season — and defensive back Reggie Floyd’s 69-yard interception return for a score.
“We made big plays on defense, scored some touchdowns, returned a punt for touchdown … at times, we played well on offense,” Fuente said. “At times, it was a struggle. I think that’s going to be us quite honestly. The concept of a complete game and all that, I don’t get into that. We have another challenge next week and getting our guys healthy and ready to go.”
North Carolina only got into Virginia Tech territory three times, turned the ball over three times, and finished with just 172 yards.
“We need to not turn the football over,” North Carolina coach Larry Fedora said. “We need to take care of the ball on offense. We can’t keep giving up big plays in our kicking game, and we can’t give up catastrophic plays on defense.
“The game of football doesn’t change. It’s the same. We’ve got to do it. I got to do a better job of coaching, our staff has to do a better job of coaching, and we have to continue to find ways to get our guys in a position to be successful.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels gave up 59 points, but their issues are on offense. They played three quarterbacks — Chazz Surratt, Brandon Harris and Nathan Elliott — and none were effective. Their three turnovers led to 21 Virginia Tech points.
Virginia Tech: Virginia Tech’s defense might have played its best game of the season, as it thoroughly controlled the game until the fourth quarter when coordinator Bud Foster started substituting. Aside from 43-yard touchdown pass from Surratt to Anthony Ratliff, the Hokies didn’t give up any big plays and registered a season-high six sacks.
ANSWERING THE CHALLENGE
Foster challenged Tech’s defensive line during the off week. The Hokies entered the game with just 12 sacks in the first six games — and only 4.5 by the defensive line. The group responded with four sacks of the Hokies’ six sacks Saturday, including 1.5 by Walker – his first of the season.
“Yesterday (Friday), we got called out,” Walker said. “We took it personal. We needed to hit the quarterback and get him on the ground. Pressure is not enough. I think I came out and got the first one, and I just set the tone.”
North Carolina: The Tar Heels obviously aren’t in the polls and are experiencing one of their tougher seasons in recent memory.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies should move up in the poll, considering their strong performance Saturday and given Oklahoma State’s unimpressive overtime victory over Texas.
North Carolina: The road doesn’t get any easier for the Tar Heels, who face Coastal Division-leading Miami next Saturday in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.
Virginia Tech: The Hokies remain at home, where they will face Duke next Saturday. Virginia Tech has lost its past two games against the Blue Devils at home.