Just call this one a great escape for Tech

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Last week was petty larceny. This was a Brink's job.

In broad daylight, in front of 59,800 eyewitnesses, Virginia Tech heisted an ACC football game Saturday from North Carolina and returned home to Blacksburg atop the conference's Coastal Division.

"We never claimed to be pretty," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said after his squad's second consecutive 20-17 victory.

Pretty? Who said anything about pretty? For 21/2 quarters, Tech was coyote ugly.

The offense was inept. The defense suffered two costly meltdowns. The Tar Heels led 17-3.

Game over.

Only once in Beamer's 22 seasons had the Hokies rallied from 14 or more points down in the second half. And that was in 1995 against Virginia, when Tech was en route to the Sugar Bowl and boasted a big-league offense quarterbacked by Jim Druckenmiller.

Saturday the offense bordered on bush-league. Why, midway through the first quarter, the Hokies torched two timeouts without snapping the ball because they couldn't get the proper personnel on the field.

Backup quarterback Sean Glennon was so disheartened by the proceedings that he began warming up on his own early in the third quarter. Just in case.

But late in the quarter, something strange happened: Tech converted a third down.

The Hokies had misfired on nine of their previous 10 third downs, and this one was a briarpatch — third-and-7 from their 14, trailing by two touchdowns.

Quarterback Tyrod Taylor rolled right, only to encounter end Robert Quinn, who dragged him toward the ground. But just before his knees hit, Taylor flicked a 15-yard pass to freshman Dyrell Roberts.

Beamer charged onto the field pumping his fist. Finally! Signs of life!

"A gutty play and a big, big play," he said.

Aided by two major North Carolina penalties, Tech subsequently completed an 89-yard drive to pull within 17-10.

Then Orion Martin, the Hokies' MVP, forced a fumble that Davon Morgan recovered at Carolina's 30. Then Taylor summoned the calm that separates him from most sophomore quarterbacks.

On third-and-9 from the 29, he dropped the shotgun snap, groped to regain possession, sprinted to his right and found freshman Jarrett Boykin for 13 yards.

"I knew it was third down and we needed yards," Taylor said. "I got caught looking at the secondary too much trying to see their rotation."

Two plays later, Kenny Lewis scored the tying touchdown, and on the next series Dustin Keys kicked the decisive 45-yard field goal.

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