The Hokies struggled to find success last season after pundits pinned them as a potential player for a BCS bowl berth. The expectations dropped significantly entering the 2013 season. Frank Beamer's team hasn't disappointed thus far in producing a 4-1 record. The sole loss coming at the hands of the nation's top team, Alabama. The Hokies suffered a 25-point defeat against the Tide but displayed their dominant defense to the country by limiting A.J. McCarron and Bama's offense to 206 total yards of offense.
Since then, Virginia Tech has won four straight games with victories at home against Western Carolina and Marshall along with impressive road wins against East Carolina and Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech. Defensive coordinator Bud Foster has his side of the ball playing at a high level, allowing no more than 10 points in three of their five games. Foster's formidable defense ranks fourth nationally in total defense (241 yards per game), fifth in passing yards allowed (138 ypg) and 19th in rushing defense (103 ypg). A stout secondary got even stronger this week with the announcement that All-ACC cornerback Antone Exum has been medically cleared to play against North Carolina following ACL reconstructive surgery in January.
Quarterback Logan Thomas leads the Hokie offense with 1,047 total yards while running back Trey Edmunds (353 yds, 3 TDs) and wide receiver Demitri Knowles (20 rec, 210 yds) have been solid contributors. Offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler's unit has struggled to find an identity, ranking 89 in rushing offense (139.8 ypg) and 99th in passing offense (188.8 ypg).
"We only have to remember to last year and how we got pounded down at North Carolina. They rushed for 339 yards, which was the most anybody rushed against us, and we rushed for only 40 yards, which was the least we rushed for. Regardless of what happened last week and I know how things can happen, this is a good football team that is very capable and we only have to look to last year to know that."— Beamer
"I think when things got tough last year, we just kind of started becoming individuals and this year we've stuck together as a group and as a team. When things get tough, we've just been able to rely on each other to get us out of jams." – Thomas
"It's a conference game. A critical game for us. We're going to their stadium in Blacksburg and everybody knows how good they are. I have not looked at the statistical rankings but I am sure defensively they are probably top three in the country I would imagine. They're playing really good on defense. Bud Foster is always going to put a good defense out there so I'm sure they are going to play really well. You've got Logan Thomas on offense and they are scoring enough points to win games and are always going to be really good in the special teams."—UNC head coach Larry Fedora
Player to Watch: Logan Thomas
Despite struggling to live up to expectations, Thomas has performed better this season than during his disastrous junior campaign. He represents the epitome of a dual threat option in the pocket for the Hokies. As a passer, Thomas hasn't produced stats to admire (919 yds. 5 TDs, 6 Int.) yet his rushing ability has been on full display. The Hokie quarterback has 52 rushing attempts for 128 yards and three touchdowns through five games.
The grind of taking hits out in the open field, however, has taken its toll. Thomas suffered an abdominal strain in the triple overtime win over Marshall and then sprained his foot in the first quarter against the Yellow Jackets. Thomas donned a walking boot during Monday's press conference but insisted he would play on Saturday.
"He's tough," Beamer said. "He fits toughness to a T. He's that guy. But yeah, you'd like to run some other guys a little bit more and him a little bit less. Right now you kind of take what you have and try to build on it and do what you think is good for your football team. And I think our offensive staff is really doing a good job of that."
Thomas took over late in Virginia Tech's crucial division win over Georgia Tech last Thursday night. He rushed eight times for 33 yards and completed 5-of-8 passes for 49 yards over the final 18:16 to keep his defense rested for the stretch run.