5 takeaways from UNC football’s upset decline at Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Va. — No matter whether dud or thud, it grew to become resounding all the same for North Carolina.

Star quarterback Sam Howell was swarmed and the 10th-rated Tar Heels encounter-planted, slipping 17-10 to Virginia Tech on Friday evening in the period opener in between the Atlantic Coast Conference football groups beneath a packed residence at Lane Stadium.

A rocking sea of 65,632 mostly orange-clad admirers greeted North Carolina listed here, the browsing Tar Heels arriving amid superior expectations for the 3rd 12 months of mentor Mack Brown’s 2nd stint in cost of the program — tagged with their most effective preseason countrywide rating because 1997, their selection as the preseason favored to gain the ACC’s Coastal Division, and Howell’s position as a single of the most noticeable gamers in college soccer.

The Hokies ended up getting none of it, decreasing the junior Howell to 1 of his worst performances. He threw three interceptions for the first time as North Carolina’s quarterback — Friday night marked his 26th straight begin — and was dropped for 6 sacks.

The night time ended with a quantity of all those fans pouring out of the stands and storming the subject in celebration, after Virginia Tech defensive again Chamarri Conner picked off Howell with 37 seconds remaining to proficiently cement the consequence.

“Obviously the shine’s off and the score sure doesn’t matter tonight,” Brown reported afterward. “We ended up overrated with the way we performed.”

Right here are additional takeaways from the Tar Heels’ period-opening loss to Virginia Tech:

Hokies hound Howell

Even with trailing 14- at halftime and 17-7 in the fourth quarter, North Carolina experienced an option to most likely force extra time, immediately after getting more than with 3:17 remaining although in have to have of a landing to pull even with the Hokies.

That generate reached Virginia Tech’s side of midfield but went poof in the game’s last moment, when Hokies defensive lineman Jordan Williams obtained his paws on the scrambling Howell, spinning him all around and virtually creating an additional sack. Howell momentarily experienced his again to the area he eventually threw towards when Conner grabbed the clinching interception.

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“In that state of affairs, I’m often imagining, ‘Don’t consider a sack,’ ” Howell stated, “so I was just seeking to throw the ball away. The dude spun me all-around and it prompted a negative toss. I was trying to put the ball way out of bounds. But (Conner) built a very good perform. He was at the right spot at the appropriate time, and he built a great enjoy. It sealed the match.

“In all those type of situations, I have just obtained to be far better for my workforce. These are the periods the place I really should be at my best, and I was not at my ideal tonight. So I have just received to get superior.”

That marked the first-ever interception in the fourth quarter of a university activity for Howell, he of the robust arm and confident face instantly connected to the preseason buzz heaped on the Tar Heels.

So much for his potential Heisman Trophy candidacy. Howell, the ACC’s Preseason Player of the Calendar year, completed 17 of 32 passing for 208 yards. He threw one particular landing pass, while frequently hounded into blunders — six sacks, a few interceptions, two fumbles — by the Virginia Tech defensive entrance on ESPN’s spotlighted national phase.

Burmeister’s massive initially half

Virginia Tech quarterback Braxton Burmeister, building his fifth job start, experienced his way with the North Carolina protection in the course of the first 50 percent, staking the Hokies to a 14- lead that in the end proved ample for victory.

The mobile Burmeister checked in 7 of 8 passing for 126 yards by halftime — the only incompletion was a fall by receiver Tré Turner at the purpose line — although giving equally of his team’s touchdowns. His 4-lawn keeper capped the initially possession of the game, Virginia Tech opening the season by marching 75 yards in eight plays, and not encountering significantly resistance from the Tar Heels.

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Late in the very first 50 %, Burmeister strike restricted conclude James Mitchell with an 11-garden touchdown dart on 3rd-and-objective. That made Virginia Tech’s sixth straight third-down conversion to start the video game. Burmeister danced away from issues earlier during the generate, turning what could’ve been a 5-yard decline into a 6-garden attain.

“Give Burmeister credit,” Brown explained. “He performed really properly. We authorized him to run a couple of occasions, and the points that have shown up with our street losses past yr with Florida Condition and Virginia showed up once again tonight in that very first half.”

Downs performs as advertised

Josh Downs has been hailed as an rising star in the creating for North Carolina, and he once more suit the billing with a vocation acquiring night.

Approximately 50 percent of Howell’s completions went to the speedy sophomore, who shipped eight catches for 123 yards and scored the Tar Heels’ lone landing. That came on a display play Downs turned into a 37-lawn capture and run, with him racing absent to snap North Carolina’s scoreless start off to the sport that had lasted a lot more than 2½ quarters.

The scoring strike was Howell’s 69th job landing move, moving him earlier former standout quarterback Darian Durant (68 vocation landing passes from 2001-04) to grow to be the all-time leader in Tar Heels historical past in that class.

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Downs finished final time by hauling in 4 catches for 91 yards and two touchdowns against Texas A&M in the Orange Bowl in January. On Friday night right here, his 6 catches for 97 yards throughout the second 50 % delivered a substantially-required spark for the Tar Heels, and gave him a hot begin to this time.

Conley’s two-for-one deal

North Carolina’s defense forced two turnovers in opposition to Virginia Tech, recovering a fumble and reeling in an interception. Both equally were being collected by Ja’Qurious Conley, the certain tackler at protection.

In the initial quarter, the Hokies, already foremost 7-, churned out 10 straight operating plays to get to the Tar Heels’ 10-property line. There, Trey Morrison’s strike on Virginia Tech again Keshawn King pressured the fumble that Conley pounced on.

Conley went total extension in the fourth quarter, with North Carolina trailing 17-7, to snag the interception off Burmeister, in advance of landing on his back. Jeremiah Gemmel’s bottom pressure bothered Burmeister’s release on that toss, and Conley dived to reel in the wobbler.

Adam Smith is a sports activities reporter for the Burlington Instances-Information and United states of america Today Community. You can achieve him by e mail at asmith@thetimesnews.com or @adam_smithTN on Twitter.

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