CHAPEL HILL, N.C. — The rain from Hurricane Matthew kept coming. So too did Virginia Tech’s aggressive defense, along with an offense that kept chipping away through its own mistakes.
Consider it proof that the No. 25 Hokies are catching on to what their new coach is preaching.
Jerod Evans accounted for three touchdowns while the defense shut down No. 17 North Carolina in a 34-3 road win Saturday played in heavy rain the hurricane brought as it made its trek north.
“What I do like is I do think they’re good listeners,” Virginia Tech coach Justin Fuente said. “I do think they’re listening to our process.”
Since a Week 2 loss to Tennessee, Virginia Tech has won three straight blowouts — this one against the reigning Coastal Division champion Tar Heels (4-2, 2-1), who had beaten Pittsburgh and Florida State on last-second scores in the past two weeks.
Simply put, the Hokies were tougher than both the Tar Heels and the unfavorable conditions.
“We’re tired of hearing about everybody else,” Evans said. “We’re tired of hearing about UNC, Miami, Clemson, Louisville, etc. Those are great teams, don’t get me wrong. … But at the same time, we feel like we should be mentioned in those categories with those guys. So every week we have a statement we want to make.”
The Hokies had their share of weather-related troubles, including seven fumbles, bobbled snaps and a season-low 264 yards.
But Bud Foster’s defense locked down on UNC’s Mitch Trubisky, who entered as one of the nation’s top passers. UNC finished with 131 yards, with Trubisky throwing his first two interceptions of the year, while the Hokies scored 20 points off four turnovers.
UNC, playing without injured top tailback Elijah Hood, failed to score a touchdown for the first time under fifth-year coach Larry Fedora.
“They were in the right spots when I couldn’t put the ball in the right place,” Trubisky said. “They were there to make the play and break it up. Overall I don’t blame it on the weather. I just think it was us.”
VIRGINIA TECH: There’s that familiar bring-your-lunch-pail edge taking shape with this group. Virginia Tech’s nationally ranked defense won battles up front, while its offense did a much better job fighting through the weather conditions.
“They know what the tradition is and the expectations are,” Foster said. “And they’re working extremely hard to live up to those and get it back to that.”
NORTH CAROLINA: The wet weather doesn’t fully explain why the Tar Heels’ high-flying offense looked so, well, waterlogged. They never got in rhythm and never responded as the Hokies pushed through them — a curious all-around clunker for a surging team.
“I’m not going to blame it on the weather,” Fedora said. “They played in it, too. They seemed to handle the weather. We did a poor job all the way around.”
The Hokies slipped into the AP Top 25 after a bye week and look like they’ll stick around a while. As for the Tar Heels, they fell out of the rankings after a season-opening loss to Georgia, then returned this week for what could be another brief stay.
UNC’s 131 yards were its lowest since a 1999 loss to Wake Forest, while the 31-point margin of defeat was the worst for UNC since a 41-10 loss to rival North Carolina State in 2008. Trubisky, who entered with three straight 400-yard passing games, threw for 58 yards.
And receiver Ryan Switzer, who had a two-game ACC record of 30 catches against Pitt and FSU, had two catches for 2 yards with a couple of drops.
The rain was in full force roughly two hours before the game kicked off, and didn’t let up. That meant a sparse and soaked crowd for one of UNC’s biggest home games, with plenty of Hokies fans making the trip.
The National Weather Service’s Raleigh office reported Hurricane Matthew brought nearly 9 inches of rain in nearby Raleigh between midnight and 8 p.m.
VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies play a cross-division game at Syracuse in their first meeting since 2003.
NORTH CAROLINA: The Tar Heels travel to No. 10 Miami in another critical Coastal matchup, with the home teams winning the past two seasons by a combined 55 points.