North Carolina-Virginia Tech Preview
Several Virginia Tech players have chances to finish the season owning school records, but their focus remains on getting the team to another ACC title game.
The ninth-ranked Hokies will try to stay atop the Coastal Division when they host North Carolina on Thursday night.
Virginia Tech (9-1, 5-1) is one game ahead of second-place Virginia with two regular-season games remaining. After facing the Tar Heels, the Hokies visit the Cavaliers on Nov. 26 in a game that could decide the division title.
However, that game would be meaningless if Virginia Tech wins Thursday and Virginia loses at Florida State on Saturday. That scenario would ensure the Hokies a chance at their fourth ACC championship in five years.
"We're in the driver's seat," senior wide receiver Danny Coale said. "We control our own destiny."
A dangerous offense has put Virginia Tech in that position. The Hokies won their fifth straight last Thursday, dispatching one of their competitors in the Coastal Division with a 37-26 win at then-No. 20 Georgia Tech.
Virginia Tech outscored the Yellow Jackets 21-6 in the second quarter, during which Logan Thomas threw two touchdowns and ran for another. The Hokies finished with 476 yards of offense - the fifth straight game they've reached at least 400.
Thomas needed to complete only 7 of 13 passes to rack up 209 yards and three touchdowns. He also rushed for 70 yards and two scores.
Thomas is three rushing touchdowns away from tying Bruce Arians' school record for most in a season by a quarterback, set in 1974.
He's not the only player approaching a Hokies record. David Wilson rushed for a career-high 175 yards against the Yellow Jackets and has an FBS-leading 1,360 yards for the season - putting him on pace to break Ryan Williams' school record of 1,655 yards, set in 2009.
Meanwhile, Coale is 12 receptions away from surpassing Ernest Wilford for the single-season school record. Coale has 44 while teammate Jarrett Boykin has 40.
"When you get to November, you want to be playing for something," coach Frank Beamer said. "You want to be playing for championships. And these guys have put us in that position."
Although the defense has been overshadowed by the offense, it's been impressive in overcoming several key injuries. In the last four games, the Hokies have allowed averages of 16.8 points and 314.5 yards.
Virginia Tech's defense will try to shut down North Carolina (6-4, 2-4), which has lost three of four and is coming off a bye week.
The Tar Heels' last game was a 13-0 loss to North Carolina State on Nov. 5, the first time they've been shut out since a 7-0 defeat to Georgia Tech in 2006.
The time off was especially beneficial to quarterback Bryn Renner, who suffered a mild concussion against the Wolfpack. Renner was 9 of 17 for 76 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions in that game while getting sacked three times.
He's been sacked 22 times this season, including 14 in the last five games.
"He's doing fine now," interim coach Everett Withers said. "He's the type of kid that you almost have to put a harness around him to keep him from practicing."
A healthy Renner is key to the Tar Heels, whose running game has struggled. They had three yards rushing against N.C. State and have averaged 111.2 yards and 3.1 per carry on the ground the last five games after averaging 178.4 and 5.2 per carry in their first five.
Virginia Tech is 6-1 against North Carolina since the Hokies joined the ACC in 2004, including a 26-10 victory last year. The Tar Heels, however, won their last visit to Blacksburg in 2009, upsetting a 14th-ranked Hokies team 20-17.
Renner will see his first action against Virginia Tech. His father, Bill, was a punter for the Hokies.