The Beamer Ball Era officially ended in the ACC last winter when Virginia Tech hired Justin Fuente to replace legendary Hokie coach Frank Beamer.
However, Bud Ball — from longtime Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster — was on full display Saturday in Chapel Hill, as the No. 25 Hokies offered a throwback to their best days with a 34-3 thrashing of No. 17 North Carolina.
As in Beamer’s golden era, Virginia Tech dominated defensively and made plays on special teams to shut down what had been a high-scoring Tar Heel attack. The Hokies forced four UNC turnovers in the constant rain, including quarterback Mitch Trubisky’s first two interceptions of the season.
Tech held the Tar Heels to a season-low 131 yards and stopped them on third down 12 of 14 times. Trubisky, who was second in the ACC in passer efficiency coming in, completed just 13 of 33 passes for 58 yards.
“I’m not sure we ever got in any kind of rhythm, whether it be Mitch or the running game,” UNC coach Larry Fedora told reporters after the Tar Heels were held without a touchdown for the first time since he arrived five years ago.
The defensive smothering was obvious simply from looking at the box score, but the throwback to the days when Virginia Tech routinely won with special teams prowess was more subtle.
There was no particular big play to put the special teams on the highlight reel, but avoiding big mistakes in the wet weather was a huge key. Hokie placekicker Joey Slye was perfect on two field goals and four extra points, while Virginia Tech averaged a solid 38 yards per punt and never put itself in position to be hurt by a big UNC return.
The Hokies were able to turn Carolina’s star wideout and return man Ryan Switzer into an absolute non-factor in the game.
Switzer made two catches for a total of two yards and never touched the ball on a punt or kickoff return.
“We got them behind the sticks and we did a couple of things to get (Switzer) out of the game,” Foster said.
“We made the quarterback hold the ball a little bit and we were able to get some pressure. I really thought coming into the game he was the key. He was playing really well, but we were able to get him off rhythm and I’m really proud of our kids.”
Neutralizing the Tar Heels’ greatest weapons and routinely giving quarterback Jerod Evans magnificent field position to work with made life easy on Fuente’s offense in the downpour.
Evans was efficient as ever, accounting for three touchdowns and avoiding turnovers. That was plenty on the day the Hokies helped break the ACC Coastal Division race wide open.
By the end of the night, in which Miami lost to Florida State, the Hokies had put themselves in as good a position to win the Coastal as anyone.
Some tricky road games remain, but Virginia Tech avoids Clemson, Florida State and Louisville out of the Atlantic Division.
The Hokies can begin to dream of the kind of success they couldn’t achieve in the final years of Beamer’s run, and it’s because they are playing a lot like a classic Beamer-and-Bud Ball squad.