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Virginia Tech upsets #10 UNC, 17-10

virginia tech logoVirginia Tech scored on its first possession, led 14-0 at the half, and held on late for a 17-10 win over #10 UNC Friday night in front of an electric sellout crowd at Lane Stadium.

Carolina had come in as the preseason favorite in the ACC Coastal, and its junior quarterback, Sam Howell, was a top early candidate for the Heisman Trophy – but neither the Heels nor their QB played anywhere close to the hype.

Howell had pedestrian numbers at best – 17-of-32, 208 yards, one TD, three INTs, including one on the final play from scrimmage for UNC, in Tech territory in the final minute.

And it could have been worse. The Hokies got on the board five minutes in on a Braxton Burmeister 4-yard TD run, and got the ball inside the UNC 10 on their next possession, before a Keshawn King fumble on and a second-and-short play allowed the Tar Heels to dodge that bullet.

North Carolina had three punts and an end of half to account for its four first-half possessions, and didn’t get on the board until the 4:20 mark of the third quarter, on a screen pass from Howell to Josh Downs that went 37 yards for a TD that made it 14-7.

A 48-yard John Parker Romo field goal made it 17-7 Tech early in the fourth, but Parker Romo missed a 31-yarder after a Howell INT, leaving the door open.

Howell drove Carolina to the Tech 10 on the next drive, but was sacked by TyJuan Garbutt on a third-and-four.

Grayson Atkins was good from 31 yards with 5:53 to go to make it a one-score game again.

The UNC defense forced a stop to get Howell one last shot, and he drove the Heels into Hokie territory, but under pressure, he forced a pass into coverage that was picked off by Chamarri Conner with 37 seconds to go.

Big win for Tech, and for head coach Justin Fuente, who was at or near the top of just about every hot seat list on sports websites near you coming into the season, after posting two losing seasons in the last three years.

The win over the preseason Coastal favorite will almost certainly get Tech ranked next week, and it makes the Coastal race as wide open as it should have been seen, with UNC now looking quite average.

Story by Chris Graham