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HOKIES DOWN TAR HEELS, 17-10, IN OPENER

UNC

by Hank Kurz Jr., Associated Press

BLACKSBURG, VA.—Braxton Burmeister ran for a touchdown and threw for another and Virginia Tech made Sam Howell look pedestrian in a 17-10 victory over No. 10 North Carolina on Friday night in the opener for both teams.

Burmeister scored on a 4-yard run and found James Mitchell for an 11-yard scoring strike as the Hokies built a 14-0 lead they took into halftime.

They struggled to put the game away in the second half until the final minute when they chased Howell from the pocket at the Virginia Tech 40 and he tried to find a teammate but instead threw an interception to seal the outcome.

“We couldn’t put the game away but the defense continued to rise to the occasion,” coach Justin Fuente said, calling it as impressive a performance as he’s seen.

Howell, who’d thrown eight touchdown passes in two prior games against Virginia Tech, was sacked six times and harassed all night. His final pick came when he was in the grasp of Jordan Williams and found Chamarri Conner.

The play was reviewed, and when the officials announced that it was an interception, the sellout crowd at Lane Stadium erupted with relief. Many fans joined the team in celebration on the field after the game, which marked the first time since the 2019 season that fan attendance was not limited.

“Obviously, now the shine’s off and the rating sure doesn’t matter tonight,” Tar Heels coach Mack Brown said. “We were overrated with the way we played.”

Howell did become the Tar Heels’ career touchdown pass leader with 69 when Josh Downs took a screen pass 37 yards for a score in the third quarter, but he was unable to find his usual magic late.

THE TAKEAWAY
North Carolina: The Tar Heels’ need to replace Howell’s top two targets from last season was hampered greatly by the play of the Hokies secondary, which often caused him to hold onto the ball for a long time. In one stretch, Howell was sacked on three consecutive plays after dropping back to pass.

Virginia Tech: The Hokies drove for two touchdowns and to the North Carolina 10 on their first three possessions, failing to score on the middle drive when Keshawn King fumbled the ball away. They then played conservatively until Howell’s pass to Downs got the Tar Heels on the board at 14-7.

POLL IMPLICATIONS
The Tar Heels’ ranking was their highest in the preseason since the 1997 team was No. 7, but they will surely tumble. The Hokies got no votes in the preseason, but are likely to at least get some consideration going forward.

UP NEXT
The Tar Heels will be at home to face Georgia State on Saturday.

The Hokies remain at home and face Middle Tennessee on Saturday.

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