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Gary Putnik | | September 3, 2021

Virginia Tech shocks No. 10 North Carolina: 3 things to know from the upset

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Virginia Tech opened its 2021 season with a big win over No. 10 North Carolina, 17-10, at Lane Stadium in Blacksburg, Virginia on Friday night. The Hokies were led by their defense and redshirt junior QB Braxton Burmeister, who threw for 169 yards with a touchdown and interception along with a rushing touchdown en route to a victory.

Here are three things to know from the upset:

1. Virginia Tech got its first win against a top-10 opponent in 7 years

The last time that Virginia Tech took down a top-10 opponent was in 2014 when the Hokies beat No. 8 Ohio State 35-21 in Columbus, Ohio during the 2014 season — a win vs. a Buckeyes team that ended up winning the national title. The Hokies' last home win against a top-10 team came a little over a decade ago when No. 9 Miami (Fla.) fell 31-7 in 2009.

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2. The Hokies' defense dominated

Last year, UNC’s offense averaged 537.2 yards per game and five and a half touchdowns per game. On Friday, the Virginia Tech defense stifled one of college football’s best by holding it to zero points in the first half and 10 points total. 

The Hokies were also able to break through the Tar Heel offensive line to record six sacks and nine tackles for a loss. They continued to apply pressure to UNC’s offense all night as to not let the Tar Heels have a chance to come back. 

Junior DB Chamarri Conner came up clutch with an interception late in the fourth to secure the victory. Conner also racked up a team-high eight tackles. Redshirt junior DL Amare Barno was also a force to be reckoned with on the defensive line. He totaled six tackles, 3.5 tackles for a loss, 1.5 sacks and a forced fumble on the night.   

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3. UNC's Sam Howell struggled

UNC’s junior QB Sam Howell came into 2021 as a Heisman hopeful. He entered 2021 with 7,227 passing yards, 68 touchdowns and just 14 interceptions from his first two seasons. 

Friday night wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows for Howell. He went 17-32 with 208 yards, a touchdown and three interceptions. That is the most interceptions in a single game for the three-year starter. Two of his three picks occurred in the fourth quarter, which were also a career first for Howell. Prior to tonight, he hadn't thrown an interception in the fourth quarter. 

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Howell and the Tar Heels will have a chance to get back on track next week when they take on Georgia State at 7:30 p.m. on Sep. 11. The Hokies will look to keep their momentum going as they face off against Middle Tennessee State at 2 p.m. on Sep. 11.

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