CHAPEL HILL — North Carolina needed one more big defensive play and it didn’t get one Saturday night.

Virginia Tech drove 98 yards for the winning points, scoring with Ryan Willis throwing 1 yard to tight end Dalton Keene with 19 seconds to play in a 22-19 victory against the host Tar Heels at Kenan Stadium.

“We just didn’t make enough plays to win a football game,” Tar Heels coach Larry Fedora said. “We just didn’t get it done.”

Virginia Tech used 18 plays on the winning drive, converting four third downs and one fourth down. A two-point conversion pass accounted for the final margin.

“We are right there,” Tar Heels linebacker Cole Holcomb said. “It’s just finish the game. I think we played 58 minutes of good football.”

After recovering fumble, the Hokies (4-2 overall, 3-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) took over with 6:13 remaining. Willis scrambled for 12 yards on fourth-and-9 reaching the North Carolina 29 for one of the big plays.

“We had them where we wanted them,” North Carolina cornerback Patrice Rene said. “This game came down, it was in the defense’s hands. … I think the quarterback just found a crease and he took that.”

Quarterback Nathan Elliott, in his first game of the season as a reserve, threw a touchdown pass for North Carolina (1-4, 1-2).

Tar Heels quarterback Cade Fortin, a freshman who made his first career start, went out with 1:04 remaining in the second quarter after he scrambled to the Virginia Tech 5. He was 10-for-18 for 97 yards, while also running for 44 yards on six carries.

Willis, in his third start with his team, was 20-for-36 for 221 yards with two interceptions through the air. He rushed 15 times for 88 yards.

North Carolina running back Michael Carter gained 165 yards on 18 carries. That was part of the team’s 522 yards of total offense.

A third-and-15 play that covered 80 yards on a pass from Elliott to tight end Carl Tucker appeared huge for the Tar Heels. But four plays later, Carter fumbled on a play when North Carolina took at the Virginia Tech 1, setting up the Hokies on their long winning drive.

Elliott lofted a 3-yard touchdown pass to Anthony Ratliff-Williams on the team’s first possession of the second half.

The Hokies countered when Willis tossed a 13-yard touchdown pass to Sean Savoy, who knocked a defender out of the way on his route to the end zone. Virginia Tech converted on three third downs on the drive.

North Carolina kicker Freeman Jones made four field goals, matching a single-game school record with six attempts. He missed from 32 yards, leaving the score at 16-14.

Virginia Tech threatened to go ahead in the final minute of the third quarter but Willis was intercepted at the North Carolina 3 by J.K. Britt.

Jones made it 19-14 with a 35-yard field goal with 9:59 left.

Earlier, Willis ran through an open field for a 33-yard touchdown to open the scoring just 1:55 into the game. North Carolina running back Antonio Williams fumbled on the game’s first snap.

On their next possession, the Tar Heels were on the board with Jones’ 33-yard field goal that was set up by Carter’s 49-yard run.

The Tar Heels had a chance to go ahead midway through the second quarter, but Jones’ boot from 43 yards was wide left. North Carolina’s next possession ended on a failed fourth-and-1 run at the Virginia Tech 26-yard line.

Jones was good from 22 yards out for a 9-7 lead with 49 seconds to play in the first half.

Shortly before the game, North Carolina announced that defensive lineman Malik Carney was available to play rather that sit out as part of an NCAA suspension. According to the school, the NCAA approved a request to stagger Carney's suspension in order to protect the health and safety of the players at his position. Defensive linemen Jalen Dalton and Tyrone Hopper were out with injuries.

Carney, who registered two sacks and seven total tackles, will serve the final game of his suspension once others at his position are available to play, according to the school’s statement.