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Defense Leads Virginia Tech to Upset Over No. 10 North Carolina, Heisman Hopeful Sam Howell


With Lane Stadium sold out for the first time in over a year and a top-10 conference foe in town, the ingredients for a season-opening upset were in place on Friday night in Blacksburg, Va. The Virginia Tech defense put them all together to deliver college football's first banner result.

The Hokies shut down No. 10 North Carolina and Heisman Trophy hopeful Sam Howell, riding a havoc-causing defensive performance to a 17-10 win. Howell was sacked six times and threw three interceptions, as Virginia Tech led wire-to-wire.

Virginia Tech pitched a shutout in the first half, dominating the time of possession by holding the ball for over 20 minutes. The Tar Heels punted on their first three possessions before running out the clock on their final drive of the second quarter, while the Hokies' defense was backed by a fired-up home crowd.

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North Carolina finally scored late in the third quarter, while Virginia Tech answered with a field goal on its subsequent drive to take a 17-7 lead. The Tar Heels pulled within a touchdown on a 31-yard-field goal with under six minutes to play, then forced a quick punt, but their next drive ended with Howell's third interception of the night with under a minute to play to seal the win for the Hokies.

Howell, a second-team All-ACC selection in 2020 and a 2019 Freshman All-American, was 17-for-32 for 208 yards, one touchdown and three interceptions. Virginia Tech's Braxton Burmeister completed 12 of 19 pass attempts for 169 yards, one touchdown and one interception while rushing for 42 yards and one score. Defensive lineman Amare Barno had 3.5 tackles for loss, while Tyjuan Garbutt notched two sacks.

North Carolina will have its home opener next week against Georgia State, while Virginia Tech faces Middle Tennessee at home.

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