Virginia Tech's brilliant freshman tailback, the ACC's leading rusher, had fumbled. North Carolina had recovered.
The Tar Heels churned out a first down against a suddenly helpless defense, milked the clock and lined up for a chip-shot field goal.
Casey Barth's 21-yarder on the game's final snap was true, and the Hokies were 20-17 losers.
They got precisely what they deserved.
Tech's offense failed to score in the first half despite crossing midfield five times.
Tech's defense failed to stop the ACC's 11th-ranked offense at critical stages throughout the second half.
Earlier this season, the 14th-ranked Hokies (5-3, 3-2 ACC) lost to Alabama and Georgia Tech. Those opponents are first-rate, a combined 15-1 this season. Those defeats are excusable.
This is not. North Carolina (5-3, 1-3 ACC) is not as talented as Virginia Tech.
Yet the Tar Heels sauntered into the Hokies' house and won, even after gift-wrapping a go-ahead score for the home team in the fourth quarter.
Yes, as badly as Virginia Tech played throughout, it took a 17-14 lead early in the final period on quarterback Tyrod Taylor's 1-yard run. The touchdown was set up by Rashad Carmichael's interception of T.J. Yates, who inexplicably tried to throw while tumbling backward from the weight of 301-pound defensive tackle Cordarrow Thompson.
But the Hokies couldn't stand prosperity.
On its next possession, North Carolina converted a third-and-4, third-and-7, fourth-and-7 and third-and-3 before settling for Barth's tying field goal with 2:52 remaining.
Moments later, on third-and-6, Williams fumbled when hit by Tydreke Powell. Deunta Williams recovered for the Tar Heels.
Of all the people to commit the decisive turnover.
Projected as a backup to incumbent Darren Evans, Williams inherited the starting job when Evans suffered a season-ending knee injury in August. He's been the Hokies' best player and the conference's best back since, combining punishing power and breakaway speed like few other runners in Tech annals.
After Barth's winning kick, Williams sat motionless on the bench. Evans attempted to console him, to no avail.
"All it was was effort, trying to get that first down," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said of the fumble, Tech's second turnover of the night.