Virginia Tech Knocks Off No. 10 North Carolina In Front of Sold-Out Lane Stadium, 17-10

Amare Barno (11) and TyJuan Garbutt (45) celebrate Garbutt’s fourth quarter sack on Friday. (Ivan Morozov)

For the first time since September 2009, Virginia Tech defeated a top-ten team in front of a Lane Stadium crowd on Friday night, upsetting No. 10 North Carolina 17-10.

In that game against the Hurricanes 12 years ago, the Hokies terrorized Miami quarterback Jacory Harris to the tune of three sacks, nine tackles for loss and one interception. On Friday night against the Tar Heels: Six sacks, nine tackles for loss and three picks for Justin Hamilton’s defense.

“It was as impressive of a [defensive] performance as I’ve seen,” Virginia Tech head coach Justin Fuente said postgame. “It was incredible to continue to answer the bell there in the second half.”

A tale of two halves, Virginia Tech started the game with two touchdowns on its first three drives, all while milking the game clock. Quarterback Braxton Burmeister scampered into the end zone after a five-minute drive to put Tech up 7-0, and he connected with tight end James Mitchell in the second quarter for the Hokies’ second score.

Braxton Burmeister steps up in the pocket and looks to find James Mitchell for a touchdown. (Ivan Morozov)

On a third and goal from the UNC 11, Burmeister stepped up in the pocket and threw a laser that found the outstretched arms of Mitchell for six. Fuente was convinced that Burmeister was actually aiming for Tayvion Robinson, who was behind Mitchell.

“I knew one of them was going to catch it,” Burmeister said with a chuckle.

Burmeister & Co. ate 20:49 off the clock in the first half, gaining 12 first downs in the process. Tech also converted on six of its seven third downs. Burmeister completed seven of his eight passing attempts, too; the lone incompletion came from Tre Turner, who dropped a pass that hit him in the hands in the end zone.

However, outside of the first half, it was a quiet night for Virginia Tech on offense. The Hokies finished with 127 rushing yards and 169 passing yards, 58 yards behind UNC in total offense. In the second half, Tech punted three times, threw a pick and kicked two field goals (making one). 

It was Justin Hamilton’s defense that stood out in the late stages of the contest.

“I felt like the offense played the whole first half and the defense played the whole second half,” Fuente said. “We had several opportunities to end the game but our execution was poor, but our defense continued to rise to the occasion.”

On the defensive side in the first half, the Hokies forced three North Carolina punts on four possessions. The fourth, which was UNC’s most progressive drive into Tech territory at the VT 30, fell right before halftime. Outside of that, the farthest the Tar Heels got was to the Hokies’ 37.

The Hokies had four sacks, 1.5 from Amare Barno, and one forced fumble (also from Barno) in the first 30 minutes. In 2020 against Carolina, Tech had one sack over the course of 60 minutes.

Amare Barno forces North Carolina quarterback Sam Howell to fumble in the second quarter. (Ivan Morozov)

It was a revamped and reenergized defense, particularly up front, in the 2021 season opener.

“I knew the key to the game was stop the run,” Tech linebacker Dax Hollifield said. “First off, stop the run. We did that until we got into some passing situations and they would run the ball when we were in little dime packages and stuff like that. But we stopped the run.”

Hollifield, who finished with half of a TFL and half of a sack, preached to the media early in the week that Tech had to stop the run. Against the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last season, the duo of Javonte Williams and Michael Carter demolished the Hokies for 400 yards.

On Friday, North Carolina rushed for 146 yards. No back had more than 66, and UNC had 67 at halftime.

“When you make an offense one-dimensional, and you have athletes on the edge and in the middle that … I’m taking those four [defensive linemen] against any five in the country in a one-on-one matchup,” Hollifield said. “And they did that, and they got pressure and we got after them. The proof is in the pudding.”

The defense was relied on heavily in the second half as Tech’s offense struggled. After chewing so much clock and scoring 14 points in the first half, the Hokies couldn’t move the ball in the second.

Tech went three-and-out and punted on its first two second half possessions. The only drive where the Hokies moved the ball was after Carolina’s lone touchdown of the game (a 37-yard pass from Sam Howell to Josh Downs). Burmeister led the offense on an eight-play drive that ate 5:02 off the clock. Tech didn’t have more than a six-play drive over the next four possessions, though.

In a 17-7 game entering the fourth quarter with an offense that couldn’t move the ball, the Hokies’ defense stepped up.

On UNC’s four possessions in the fourth quarter, Tech forced a turnover on downs, picked off Howell twice and sacked Howell once in the red zone to force a field goal. Sure, the defense gave up 132 yards over those four possessions, but led by a strong defensive line, it didn’t budge.

While the defensive line play across the board was solid, ends Barno and TyJuan Garbutt stood out in particular.

Barno finished with six tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks. Garbutt recorded five tackles, two tackles for loss and two sacks.

It was that kind of night for the Hokies’ defensive line.

“We feel like as a D-line, we can wreck the game, which, as an example, tonight,” Garbutt said with a smirk and a shrug. “I love playing with all those guys. We bring the energy.”

The talented play up front forced Howell, a potential first round NFL Draft pick, into some strenuous situations, and ultimately three interceptions. Chamarri Conner, Jermaine Waller and Hollifield each came away with a pick.

Dax Hollifield celebrates his interception in the fourth quarter. (Ivan Morozov)

Against Virginia Tech the previous two seasons, Howell threw for 605 yards, eight touchdowns and no interceptions while completing 61% of his passes. On Friday: 17-32 (53%), 208 yards, one touchdown, three interceptions.

Tech’s strategy of stopping the run and getting pressure paid off, and it helped that it had a packed house to provide some noise and energy. The Hokies fed off of it.

“What an unbelievable crowd tonight. I’ve never seen it like that,” Fuente said. “So much energy… our fans were incredible. They played a huge role in the game.”

Burmeister and Hollifield echoed that statement. The quarterback said there was a play on offense at the goal line where he didn’t think his offensive line could hear him.

“The atmosphere was nothing like I’ve ever seen in my life,” Hollifield said. “Half the time, I couldn’t talk. I was on the D-line like, ‘we’re in this,’ because they couldn’t hear me five feet away. I had to whisper in the ear that. That was incredible.”

In a way, it’s the dream start to the season for Fuente & Co. It wasn’t pristine but it got the job done. Will North Carolina turn out to be a top-ten team in November? Only time will tell.

But for 60 minutes on Friday night, Virginia Tech went out in Lane Stadium and took it to UNC. The Hokies played the hard-nosed football Fuente’s preached for so long. And in the end, it paid off in a seven-point win over a divisional rival.

In front of a sold-out Lane Stadium, too. What a way to start the 2021 campaign.

“That was incredible,” Hollifield said. “So next week, let’s do it again. Again.”

Virginia Tech fans storm the field after upsetting No. 10 UNC. (Ivan Morozov)


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53 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. I wish we would have tried to do something when we had the ball just before halftime. we had good field position and 2:30 time left.

  2. Pete Thames: Today is our annual reminder that no one in college football history has won more off-seasons than Mack Brown.

  3. Just saw a clip on Twitter where a drunken Cheater fan jumped a Hokie fan and was immediately swarmed by other Hokies and a few punches landed on his sorry a$$ before security moved in…Kudos Hokie Nation!!!

  4. 1 games does not a season make. That said, UMD beat WVU. Put up 496 yds. on them. That said, I like our chances of being 4-0 going into ND.

  5. Was last nite the first nite of beer sales? If it was ….alcohol helped create the noise level. It is easier to yell when your throat loose.

    Just Sayin

    1. The beer line was long and there were lots of folks carrying back two at a time. And yeah – it did seem to grease some folks’ vocal cords. But – that didn’t account for the volume coming from the student section. For both this years Freshmen AND Sophs – it was their first game at Lane Stadium as students. Never heard Enter Sandman so loud – especially after the music stopped. And it was like that the entire game.

  6. We dominated Carolina’s Ass from the Gitgo-it was an excellent Game plan on both sides of the ball. The Game was not as close as it reads-We had some Hiccups, of course-the 1st Game. I am very proud of the Hokies-all in all a Great performance in a Huge, Huge Game. Watched it on TV-but that Crowd was absolutely Spectacular. Go Hokies!

  7. What an effort by our HOKIES last night against UNCheat. Personally, I prefer beating them even more than UVa. At least UVa players actually attend real classes, and I find most UNC grads even more arrogant than ones from UVa.

  8. Haven’t seen this commented on above, perhaps, but it seemed to me to be an really well-disciplined effort – very few penalties, at any rate. No shortage of mistakes, certainly – but a first game as generally penalty free as that, after the past year, was really good to see – and surely contributed to the success on both sides of the ball.

    1. Good point. I hope that is an indication of maturity and focus. If so, then we can avoid those “bad” losses.

  9. Defense did great. Kudos to DC Hamilton, and great to see J.C. Price return as defensive line coach.
    Great Offensive effort likewise. Just keep getting better, and no let up. Stay hungry ALL season, no let up. Go HOKIES!!!

  10. Hope the OC noted that when the offense is rolling, scoring, having fun, etc if you pull the plug on them, and play defense with your offense, then it might be hard to start them up again. When the offense is rolling like the start of the game let then keep it up and SCORE EVERY TIME YOU HAVE THE BALL.

  11. 0-2 for VT on Field Goals in the Team Stats. I guess whoever was keeping the stats took the 48 yd field goal away after he missed the easy one. Should be 1-2

  12. I’m aware that some of the stats are messed up from last night. The system is wrong and when it’s fixed, I’ll update the images. Obviously weren’t three missed PATs and the time of possession is screwed up. Sorry about that, I’ll fix it in the article when it’s fixed on the stats website.

  13. ANY doubts I may have had that JHam could carry Coach Fosters’ legacy forward have evaporated. Tremendous effort.

    1. Remember there are 3 D coaches that played under Bud. I’m sure all 3 are instilling the give no quarter mentality on Defense. May the Lunch Pail lead them on.

      GO HOKIES!!!

      1. Fumble in the red zone ( 3 to 7 points), TD rightfully taking off the board as receiver’s toe was on the line, and a missed field goal was 13 to 17 points left off the scoreboard. So the game really was not as close as the score indicated.

  14. “The shine has worn off.”

    Let’s hope the polish stays in the drawer for future recruits. Go Hokies.

  15. Great win and fantastic to see the defence come together. BB has a few poor reads and passes in the second half that stalled drives. Had he seen Turner wide open in the 3rd quarter it would have been a walk-in touchdown to go up 21-0. He also had a couple of overthrows that forced punts. Overall great first game.

    1. Seeing Turner after A. Ware points him out from the booth is easy. Seeing Turner on the left when you are a right-handed QB being chased right is another thing. Wide open, yes, hard to see, yes, even harder to through back across your body, as we saw on the INT.

      Great Win.

    1. Yeah, I’m aware. I pulled the stats from Tech’s database and the stats were off. When it’s corrected, I’ll update it. Sorry about that.

  16. “ Virginia Tech started the game with two touchdowns on its first two drives”

    Umm, no. King fumbled pressing for extra inches to end the second drive. Mitchell’s TD (secondary assist to Robinson) was on the third drive.

    Nonetheless, great win and incredible effort all around. Nice to see Tre get a shot over the shoulder, he was 1-1 most of the night but the game plan said wear them down with running. Can’t believe he muffed that TD pass, though.

      1. Do you remember when bc i just rewatched it snd didn’t see him? Nasir Peoples started and tae daley also played a lot. Both played very well on the plays i was watching them, except the pass interference call of course which was debatable!

    1. Hunter played for at least one defensive series, as far as I’m aware. I know he was on the field at least once.

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