Last season, Justin Fuente had three chances to pick up a win over a ranked opponent in the friendly confines of Lane Stadium in Blacksburg.
None of them were successful.
But 2021 is a far different story for the Virginia Tech coach, whose Hokies opened their season with a dominant 17-10 home win over No. 10 North Carolina in a key ACC Coastal matchup.
The Hokies’ defense set the pace. It held the normally prolific Sam Howell in check, intercepting the UNC quarterback three times and sacking him six times, though he continued his streak of recording a passing touchdown in every game he has played for the Tar Heels.
Against that imposing Hokies defense, Howell was unable to establish a real connection with many of his offensive weapons, though receiver Josh Downs totaled 123 yards and caught UNC’s only touchdown.
Virginia Tech’s offense, meanwhile, was just good enough. It possessed the ball for 21 minutes in the first half and almost 35 minutes for the game, and it went 6 for 13 on third-down conversion attempts compared to the Tar Heels’ 2-for-10 mark.
Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister made timely throws and used his legs when needed. He completing 12 of 19 passes for 169 yards, a touchdown and an interception while adding a rushing touchdown.
The top-10 win is the Hokies’ first under Fuente and the program’s first since 2014 when Hall of Fame coach Frank Beamer led Tech to a 35-21 win over then-No. 8 Ohio State in Columbus.
Sporting News tracked live updates, results and highlights from the ACC season opener (all times Eastern).
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech score
North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech live updates, highlights
Final: Virginia Tech 17, No. 10 North Carolina 10
9:16 p.m.: Virginia Tech runs its final play and knocks off No. 10 North Carolina at home to open their season.
9:14 p.m.: With 30 seconds left UNC calls a timeout after Tre Turner takes it 12 yards to the Virginia Tech 44 and the Tar Heels follow that up with another timeout promptly at the 27 second mark.
9:13 p.m.: INTERCEPTION VIRGINIA TECH. The Hokies pick off Howell with just over 30 seconds remaining and take over at their 32, essentially sealing it for Virginia Tech.
9:06 p.m.: The Tar Heels’ drive stays alive as they convert on fourth-and-11 after being hit for an ineligible receiver penalty. Howell hits Emery Simmons for 18 yards to the UNC 42-yard line and a first down with 1:51 left in the game.
9:04 p.m.: North Carolina goes run-run the first two plays of the drive and it seems to be working as the Tar Heels are slowly but surely marching down the field.
9:03 p.m.: With just over three minutes remaining, Virginia Tech punts it away on fourth-and-6 and North Carolina takes over inside its own 15-yard line after the Hokies punt it away.
8;58 p.m.: NORTH CAROLINA FIELD GOAL. It’s officially a one-score game in Blacksburg after Grayson Atkins nails a 31-yard field goal with just under six minutes left to play in the game. Virginia Tech 17, No. 10 North Carolina 10. UNC has gotten several big stops lately, they need another one here.
8:56 p.m.: North Carolina gets inside the redzone but almost immediately is facing third-and-four only for Howell to be sacked right away, number six for the Hokies. Sets up fourth-and-8 with 5:53 left.
8:54 p.m.: North Carolina gets bailed out on a defensive pass interference on third-and-9 and now it sets up first-and-10 with 7:43 left and UNC on the Virginia Tech 16-yard line.
8:49 p.m.: A run by Chandler sets up a first down after gaining 23 yards to the Virginia Tech 32 yard line and the Tar Heels are marching.
8:48 p.m.: The Howell and Downs connection is working well as the duo connect for 25 yards to go to the UNC 45-yard line.
8:44 p.m.: VIRGINIA TECH MISSED FIELD GOAL. John Parker Romo misses a 31-yard field goal attempt after nailing a 48-yarder earlier in the game. Virginia Tech 17, No. 10 North Carolina 7 That miss puts North Carolina right back in it with 9:39 left in the game.
8:41 p.m.: UNC gets bailed out majorly on second-and-9 on the 13 yard line after Burmeiester nearly has his second touchdown only for the receiver to be ruled out of bounds.
8:39 p.m.: North Carolina gets hit for a late hit out of bounds penalty with just under 11 minutes remaining and Virginia Tech is at the North Carolina 14 yard line.
8:37 p.m.: VIRGINIA TECH INTERCEPTION. The UNC drive doesn’t last long as Howell’s pass gets tipped and intercepted and Virginia Tech is back at the UNC 43.
8:36 p.m.: NORTH CAROLINA INTERCEPTION. After UNC turns it over on downs, the Tar Heels get the ball right back after Burmeister forces the throw and the Tar Heels take over on their own 43 with 12 minutes and counting left in the game.
8:32 p.m.: On fourth-and-3, Mack Brown keeps the offense on the field with 12:34 left in the game down 10, but Howell’s pass falls incomplete and the Hokies take over at the UNC 43-yard line.
8:28 p.m.: Howell completes it again and finds DJ Jones, but Jones is rocked behind the line of scrimmage for a loss of five to bring up second-and-15 which turns into third-and-15.
8:26 p.m.: Howell has all day to throw despite facing second-and-15 and he hits Josh Downs wide open for the first down.
8:23 p.m.: VIRGINIA TECH FIELD GOAL. Virginia Tech increases its lead to 10 thanks to a 48-yard field goal from Tulsa transfer John Parker Romo with 14:18 left in the game. Virginia Tech 17, No. 10 North Carolina 7.
8:22 p.m.: The Hokies can’t convert on third down, bringing up fourth-and-10 and setting up a 48-yard field goal attempt. UNC’s defense has stopped four straight third downs now.
Third quarter: Virginia Tech 14, No. 10 North Carolina 7
8:17 p.m.: UNC defense comes up big with Virginia Tech facing third-and-12 at the 32 yard line but the Hokies, who have excelled on third down, are dangerously close to field goal range as the third quarter draws to a close.
8:16 p.m: Virginia Tech is marching down the field after the UNC touchdown and appears poised to answer right back.
8:11 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN NORTH CAROLINA. The Tar Heels finally get on the board and get their offense rolling as Howell hits Josh Downs for a 37-yard touchdown, continuing Howell’s streak of recording a touchdown in every game he’s played in. Virginia Tech 14, North Carolina 7. Mack Brown’s squad is right bakc in it with 4:20 left in the third quarter.
8:09 p.m.: No doubt about that one as Howell hands it off to DJ Jones and Mack Brown’s gamble pays off as Jones gets a 9-yard gain for an easy first to the VT 37.
8:07 p.m.: North Carolina is inches away from converting on third-and-5 after Howell connects with Emery Simmons and Mack Brown keeps the offense on the field at the UNC 48-yard line.
8:05 p.m: The Virginia Tech interception doesn’t amount to much as the Hokies go three-and-out and punt it away on fourth-and-12 and UNC takes over at their own 39.
8:01 p.m.: INTERCEPTION VIRGINIA TECH. Howell gets picked off on second-and-8 by Virginia Tech’s Jermaine Waller and the Hokies take over at their 25.
7:56 p.m.: Sam Howell takes off on second-and-10 and runs for 17 yards to pick up the first and move the chains to the UNC 41.
7:51 p.m.: The Tar Heels get a much needed stop on third-and-2 after Burmeister misses a wide open Tre Turner and the Hokies punt as UNC takes over at their own 24.
7:48 p.m.: UNC went with the run by Ty Chandler but it comes up short and the Tar Heels punt it away on fourth-and-2 from their 33.
7:44 p.m.: An injury timeout taken by the Hokies who have UNC facing third-and-4 on their own 31 on the Tar Heels’ first drive of the third quarter.
7:43 p.m.: The Virginia Tech defensive line swarms Howell again and sends him to the turf again. The third sack tonight for that unit and it’s second-and-14 right out of the half time break.
Halftime: Virginia Tech 14, No. 10 North Carolina 0
7:29 p.m.: Some halftime stats: Virginia Tech is 6-for-7 on third down and has 214 total yards of offense in the first half. The Hokies ran the ball 27 times in the first half and though they’re only averaging 2.9 yards per carry, it’s helped them have a first half time of possession of nearly 21:00, compared to 9:08 for UNC.
Braxton Burmeiester has looked like the far better quarterback so far this evening, going 7-for-8 with 126 yards and a passing touchdown in the air while contributing six carries, 17 yards and a rushing touchdown on the ground as well.
Howell has struggled to find a steady target after graduating nearly 4,000 yards of offense last year as he’s just 4-of-8 for 58 yards and has peeled off a few big plays, but none that have put UNC in particularly good field position and their offense has lacked a dynamism to be potent and challenge the Virginia Tech defense.
7:22 p.m.: DJ Ware runs it for 29 yards for the final play of the half. UNC comes out of the half and will receive as they look to try and get on board.
7:19 p.m.: Howell fumbles but the ball goes out of bounds and UNC retains possession on third-and-13 but he takes it 17 yards to stop the clock and UNC has three seconds on second-and-10 to try and get it deep down the field for a score before the half.
7:17 p.m.: Burmeister sacked on third down and Virginia Tech punts it 51 yards and the Tar Heels take over at their own 30 with just 27 seconds left in the first half.
7:14 p.m.: UNC calls a timeout with 41 seconds left in the first half and with Virginia Tech facing third-and-9 down 14-0 but the Tar Heels get the ball to start the second half and could help shift the momentum.
7:11 p.m.: North Carolina goes three-and-out after the Virginia Tech touchdown on a drive that saw Howell got sacked again and then on third-and-15, Howell finds Josh Downs for 13 yards but it comes up short and UNC opts to punt from their onw 33.
7:04 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN VIRGINA TECH. Burmeister converts in the red zone on the run and under pressure, finds James Mitchell for 11 yards to cap off a 12 play, 80 yard 7:19 drive. VIRGINIA TECH 14, UNC 0. The Hokies are 6-for-6 on third down tonight and have done a great job mixing up the offense and confusing the UNC defensive unit with 3:07 left in the half.
Braxton Burmeister rolls out & finds James Mitchell for the TD. Virginia Tech has taken advantage of North Carolina’s slow start. The Hokies offensive line has been dominant as well.
NORTH CAROLINA 0
VIRGINIA TECH 14
— CFB Blitz (@BlitzCfb) September 3, 2021
7:02 p.m.: Burmeister drops It in perfectly and finds Tre Turner way down field, who’s 6-for-6 on that 34 yard pass to set the Hokies up on the UNC 8 yard line and in prime position to make it a two score game.
7:00 p.m.: Under six minutes left in the first half and 184 total yards for the Hokies who are 5-for-5 on third down.
6:58 p.m.: The Hokies offense has done a great job so far as Burmeister completes it to Tre Turner for 16 yards as they cross midfield.
6:53 p.m.: Virginia Tech facing third-and-13 and the Hokies remain perfect on third down, as Burmeister finds Blackshear for 18 yards to the Virginia Tech 35 and the Hokies take a timeout with 8:14 left in the second quarter.
6:46 p.m.: On third-and-7, Virginia Tech’s defensive line just overpowers and has its way with UNC’s offensive line and they sack Howell, as the Tar Heels punt on fourth-and-20 and it goes for a touchback. Tar Heels need a stop here on this next Hokie drive.
6:44 p.m.: Teneesee transfer Ty Chandler has been integral so far on this offensive drive for the Tar Heels with runs of nine and six yards as UNC is on the Hokie 29-yard line facing first-and-10.
6:41 p.m.: On third-and-10, the pocket collapses but Howell able to make something happen with his legs and takes it 14 yards for the first down on the UNC 46-yard line.
First quarter: Virginia Tech 7, No. 10 North Carolina 0
6:38 p.m.: The final play of the first quarter is a Ty Chandler run for UNC that loses two yards. The Tar Heels hope this offensive drive goes better than their first.
6:37 p.m.: Howell hits Emery Simmons for 23 yards to help advance the ball down the field and get North Carolina out of being backed up to its own endzone. Haven’t seen much of Howell yet with how much Virignia Tech is running the ball.
6:34 p.m.: The 11th straight run for Virginia Tech is the one that stops their momentum as Keshawn King fumbles on the North Carolina 9-yard line, and the Tar Heels and Sam Howell take the field backed up to their own end zone.
6:33 p.m.: Virginia Tech has six first downs already as the clock is winding down in the first quarter as they run it for a 10th straight time, this one by Burmeiester again, setting up second-and-3 on the UNC 10.
6:31 p.m.: Jalen Holston takes It 6 yards as Virginia Tech continues to just run the ball all over the field. 13 runs and three passes for the Hokies who are now 3-for-3 on third down. Hokies back in the redzone on the UNC 20.
6:29 p.m.: Burmeister does it again with his legs on third-and-5. Looked for the tight end but opted to take it himself and scramble for the first down.
6:27 p.m.: The Tar Heels seem to be all out of sorts. Virginia Tech already at 102 total yards with 7:00 left in the first quarter thanks to another big first down run by Raheem Blackshear.
6:22 p.m.: North Carolina compounds matters and makes them worse, another early penalty, this one a face mask on the punt, giving Virginia Tech an extra 15 yards on the returm.
6:20 p.m.: The Hokies defense comes up with a big early three and out and their secondary has done a good job at limiting separation by UNC receivers. The Tar Heels punt it away on fourth-and-13 from their own 35.
6:19 p.m.: North Carolina gets hit for an early false start penalty as they face first-and-15 from their own 33.
6:13 p.m.: TOUCHDOWN VIRGINIA TECH. Braxton Burmeister keeps it and takes it himself from the UNC 4-yard line as the Hokies score on their opening drive. Virginia Tech 7, North Carolina, 0. An eight play, 75 yard opening drive for the Hokies is about as good a start as they could have hoped for.
6:12 p.m.: The officials confirm the first down as Robinson’s 16 yard run puts Virginia Tech at the UNC 9-yard line and in great position for an early score.
6:08 p.m.: Virginia Tech is marching down the field, but a nice run by Tayvion Robinson could be comng back. Originally good for a first down on third-and-5 but as Robinson juked out a defender, he may have stepped out of bounds. Under review right now.
6:05 p.m.: The Hokies offense is rolling early. Hokies quarterback Braxton Burmeister hits Raheem Blackshear for 33 yards and Virginia Tech is nearing the redzone early.
6:00 p.m.: “Enter Sandman” by Metallica plays in Blacksburg as they report a crowd of 66,000 on hand as the Hokies look to pull off a top-10 upset tonight over UNC.
How to watch North Carolina vs. Virginia Tech
- Time: 6 p.m.
- TV channel: ESPN
- Live streams: WatchESPN App, ESPN+, fuboTV
UNC vs. Virginia Tech will air live on ESPN starting at 6 p.m. ET. You can stream the game live online with ESPN+ or on fuboTV, which offers a free seven-day trial.
Jason Benetti and Andre Ware will call the game from the booth, with Paul Carcaterra serving as the sideline reporter.
North Carolina football schedule 2021
|Week 1||Sept. 3||at Virginia Tech|
|Week 2||Sept. 11||vs. Georgia State|
|Week 3||Sept. 18||vs. Virginia|
|Week 4||Sept. 25||at Georgia Tech|
|Week 5||Oct. 2||vs. Duke|
|Week 6||Oct. 9||vs. Florida State|
|Week 7||Oct. 16||vs. Miami|
|Week 8||Oct. 30||at Notre Dame|
|Week 9||Nov. 6||vs. Wake Forest|
|Week 10||Nov. 11||at Pittsburgh|
|Week 11||Nov. 18||vs. Wofford|
|Week 12||Nov. 26||at NC State|
Virginia Tech football schedule 2021
|Week 1||Sept. 3||vs. UNC|
|Week 2||Sept. 11||vs. Middle Tennessee|
|Week 3||Sept. 18||at West Virginia|
|Week 4||Sept. 25||vs. Richmond|
|Week 5||Oct. 9||vs. Notre Dame|
|Week 6||Oct. 16||vs. Pittsburgh|
|Week 7||Oct. 23||vs. Syracuse|
|Week 8||Oct. 30||at Georgia Tech|
|Week 9||Nov. 5||at Boston College|
|Week 10||Nov. 13||vs. Duke|
|Week 11||Nov. 20||at Miami|
|Week 12||Nov. 27||at Virginia|