Virginia Tech North Carolina Football

North Carolina's Dazz Newsome (19) reaches for a pass while Virginia Tech's Divine Deablo (17) defends during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Chapel Hill, N.C., Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerry Broome)

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Virginia Tech safety Reggie Floyd walked into his post game press conference carrying the defense’s storied lunch pail.

Jovonn Quillen should have been with him. 

While their heroics will likely be overshadowed by the offense’s methodical 18-play, 98-yard scoring drive and Tyree Rogers' forced fumble, the defenders set the Hokies’ incredible comeback in motion by preventing Carl Tucker from scoring on an 80-yard reception.

Tucker was wide-open down the middle of the field after blowing past Divine Deablo. Deablo, who battled a hamstring injury throughout the game, had no chance of catching up to the receiver.

Floyd and Quillen upended Tucker's moment to shine. The pair of defenders chased the receiver down at Virginia Tech’s 13 yard line.

“It’s been proven over, over and over again,” Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster said, after the game. “If you give great effort, you can make a touchdown-saving tackle that can be the difference in the football game when it’s all said and done.”

It brought back memories for Foster of a similar play Floyd made last year to preserve a 20-14 win over Pittsburgh. Floyd set up a successful goal line stand by chasing down Pitt receiver Jester Weah at the Hokies’ 1-yard line after a 74-yard gain.

“Just guys giving themselves to their teammate,” Foster said, proudly.

Floyd has been a key veteran presence this season for an inexperienced defense. He is currently only one of two players that started last year. The Hokies came into the season with four returning starters, but Trevon Hill was dismissed from the team and Vinny Mihota is injured.

The safety came into the game second on the team with 34 tackles (24 solo). He has 6.5 tackles for loss and is tied for the team-high with two interceptions. Floyd had nine tackles Saturday night while Quillen had just the one tackle and a fumble recovery. 

Floyd’s veteran instincts kicked in when Tucker released late on the play — ”he hesitated like he was blocking” — and the junior knew what was coming, so he broke down field. His only thought on the play was to give Virginia Tech a chance to “fight again.”

The safety slowed Tucker down and allowed Quillen to make the tackle from behind. 

“That’s just our mentality as a defense,” defensive tackle Ricky Walker said. “Don’t let them score.

The defensive backs went right back to work helping their teammates keep North Carolina out of the end zone. Floyd didn’t get a chance to think about the play until the defense gathered on the field, as they do after every road win, to add a little something to their lunch pail.

“It was a great feeling just knowing the clock hit zero, we were up and the game was over,” Floyd said. “Just get some blue turf into the lunch pail, get back on the bus and go back to the Burg.”

Mike Niziolek is the Virginia Tech football beat writer for The Roanoke Times. Follow him on Facebook.