BLACKSBURG, Va. -- The look is a familiar one for Virginia Tech.
The Hokies (4-1, 1-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) have won four consecutive behind a defense that ranks among the best in the country and an offense that has done just enough to hold up its end. A 17-10 victory against Coastal Division rival Georgia Tech even suggested the Hokies are among the elite again.
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But just one year removed from a season that started well and quickly went off course, Virginia Tech is taking nothing for granted, and a visit on Saturday from North Carolina comes at a perfect time.
The Tar Heels (1-3, 0-1) manhandled Virginia Tech last season 48-34 in Chapel Hill.
"I think it's nice to have the first ACC win underneath our belt, but we did the same thing last year and kind of fell apart, so we've just got to keep building on what we have," senior quarterback Logan Thomas said, calling the victory in Atlanta last Thursday night a confidence-booster for the team.
Besides feeling like he still had much to learn, Thomas returned for his senior season rather early for the NFL because he didn't want the bitter taste of last year's 7-6 record to linger.
So far, so good, he said, but the team knows there's still plenty of football to be played.
"It's definitely a start. Starting out 4-1 is kind of starting the right way when I came back, but you just can't stop now. You've got to keep going forward to be successful the way I pictured it," he said.
The Hokies didn't stick together last season when they went into a nosedive, losing six of eight, Thomas said, while this team is closer and realizes that they all are playing for the same objective.
The Tar Heels have struggled and last weekend allowed 55 points to East Carolina, a team the Hokies held to 10 in the second week of the season, but coach Frank Beamer is leaving nothing to chance.
"They just hammered us," he said of the game in which the Hokies were outrushed 339-40.
A repeat of that seems unlikely this time around. Virginia Tech ranks fourth in the nation in total defense, allowing just 241 yards per game. It allows just 103 yards rushing per game, 19th nationally.
"They've got the mojo back," Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said. "They're playing very well together and they believe in themselves. ... Last year, there was just something missing in what they were doing."
Sweeping changes on Virginia Tech's offensive coaching staff after last season have not yet returned the team to a run-dominated attack, but right guard Andrew Miller thinks they are improving steadily.
"I think we're a whole new team with a new offense and everything," he said. "We've got a chance to be really good this year. We know that and we've just got to keep making strides to get better every week."
The victory against Georgia Tech gave every team in the division a loss with the exception of No. 14 Miami, which has yet to play a conference game. It also kept the Hokies in control of their destiny, and continuing to win could make their game at Miami on Nov. 9 a winner-take-all battle for the title.
The thought never entered his mind, Thomas said.
"We really don't care about that," he said. "We just try to go out and handle our business every week. For me, I don't mind flying underneath the radar. You can put Miami up front, Georgia Tech up front, UNC up front, it doesn't matter to me.
"We're going to come out every week and prepare the same way and just try to keep getting better just because any week in college football is a special week for somebody."