Virginia Tech's senior night buzz lasted precisely 78 seconds Thursday.
That's how long it took the Hokies to whiff on a block, lose a fumble, miss two tackles and yield a touchdown to North Carolina.
Halloween" for Tech faithful.
Precursor or anomaly? A second Thursday-night loss to the Tar Heels in three years, or an eighth straight 10-win season for the Hokies?
Logan Thomas made quite certain this didn't morph into a horror flick for the Lane Stadium sellout.
The Hokies' closer-than-it-should-have-been, 24-21 victory moved them ever closer to a fifth ACC championship game in the past seven years.
If Florida State beats Virginia on Saturday, No. 9 Tech (10-1, 6-1 ACC) clinches the Coastal Division. If the Cavaliers win in Tallahassee for the first time, the division will be decided Nov. 26 when Tech and U.Va. collide in Charlottesville.
"That wasn't real clean," Hokies coach Frank Beamer understated as the clock approached midnight.
Not from the start, as defensive tackle Sylvester Williams caused Tech's first-play turnover, bursting through untouched to jar the ball loose from Thomas. Tydreke Powell recovered for UNC at the 20, and three plays and two missed tackles (Jayron Hosley and J.R. Collins) later, Giovani Bernard scored from the 4.
The deficit almost became 14-0 as the Tar Heels (6-5, 2-5) marched to a first-and-goal at the 5. That's where Ryan Houston fumbled and Derrick Hopkins recovered for the Hokies.
"Hang on," Beamer said. "Battle. Play every play hard and hope something good happens."
What followed was an 18-play, 95 yard drive that tied the game and showcased every asset you could want from a quarterback.
Thomas ran 5 yards to convert a third-and-3. On the dead run, and while being tattooed, he threw a 19-yard dart to D.J. Coles, who wisely and instinctively broke off his route when Thomas left the pocket.
A holding penalty squeezed Tech into a third-and-19 box, but Thomas eluded the rush, bounced off cornerback Charles Brown and gained 18 yards. Through sheer force of will, he then leaned for 2 yards on fourth-and-1.
Thomas concluded the drive with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Chris Drager. He later scored on a 23-yard run and lofted a 4-yard rainbow to Coles for a touchdown, as sweet a fade route as you'll ever see.
The seniors who said farewell Thursday were not headliners. No players of the year or first-team All-Americans. No Tyrod Taylor or Bryan Randall.
But consider what they accomplished individually and, most important, collectively.
Jarrett Boykin (hands as big as feet) and Danny Coale (uncanny route-runner) rank among the most productive receivers in program history. Offensive linemen Jaymes Brooks and Blake DeChristopher are three-year starters and likely to earn all-conference honors for the second consecutive season. Josh Oglesby shuttled from tailback to fullback to tailback and this season became an invaluable backup to David Wilson.
Linebacker Barquell Rivers has recovered from a serious leg injury to fill the void created by Taylor's foot ailment. Versatile defensive back Eddie Whitley started two seasons and shifted among free safety, rover and cornerback.
During the last four years, this group has won two ACC championships, with a possible third in the offing. They helped the Hokies win bowls in back-to-back seasons (2008 and '09) for the first time and extend the program's streak of 10-win seasons to eight.
And as much as they enjoyed the Lane Stadium sellouts and "Enter Sandman," they were at their best on the road. Tech has won an ACC-record 12 consecutive road games overall, and in the last three years, this class is 10-1 in ACC road tests, pending next week's regular-season finale at Virginia.
Several seniors enjoyed memorable goodbyes. Oglesby had consecutive runs of 13 and 10 yards. Boykin caught a career-high 10 passes for 106 yards. Drager scored his second collegiate touchdown.
The most important numbers for this class: a 41-11 record the last four seasons.
With much more football to play and championships to settle.
Beamer's answer to a question about Boykin and Coale could well have applied to the class as a whole.
"You can count on 'em," he said, "and in this business, that's big."
David Teel can be reached at 757-247-4636 or by email at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/sports/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP
Thomas rescues Virginia Tech after harrowing start