The Virginia Tech Hokies played sensational defensive football to take down No. 10 North Carolina Tar Heels 17-10 in the season opener for both teams on Friday night. The Tar Heels were a 5.5-point favorite, even with this ACC battle in Blacksburg, VA.

It was a particularly eye-opening showing from the Hokies’ pass defense against North Carolina star quarterback Sam Howell, who’s been expected to be in the mix for the No. 1 overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft.

Virginia Tech intercepted Howell — 17-of-32, 208 yards — three times (though two of the interceptions were iffy calls, even after review ), limiting the junior quarterback to one touchdown and 6.5 yards per pass attempt. They also sacked Howell six times.

While the first two interceptions involved some tough luck for Howell, the final interception wasn’t a very smart decision.

The Tar Heels were driving in Virginia Tech territory with 46 seconds remaining, facing a 2nd-and-7 at the 40-yard line. Howell rolled out to his right, and panicked after the Hokies tried to bring him to the ground for a sack. It resulted in a pass right to the Virginia Tech’s Chamarri Conner. After review, this remained an interception; it may have just been inconclusive. What *is* conclusive- this is an ill-advised throw with two downs still to work with (even if it would’ve been 3rd-and-very long after a sack).

Virginia Tech didn’t do much themselves offensively, but did possess the ball for nearly 10 minutes more than the Tar Heels did; that’s essentially defense in itself, keeping the other team off the field.

This is not a good start to the season for Mack Brown’s squad, and especially for a team that’s had College Football Playoff aspirations. And with only two games remaining this season vs teams currently ranked (No. 9 Notre Dame and No. 14 Miami), North Carolina may not get the opportunity to significantly boost the resume. At the very least, they’ve lost their room for error.

But for Justin Fuente and the Hokies, this is a massive win. Virginia Tech will look to keep the success going against Middle Tennessee next weekend.

About Matt Clapp

Matt is an editor at The Comeback. He attended Colorado State University, wishes he was Saved by the Bell's Zack Morris, and idolizes Larry David. And loves pizza and dogs because obviously.

He can be followed on Twitter at @Matt2Clapp (also @TheBlogfines for Cubs/MLB tweets and @DaBearNecess for Bears/NFL tweets), and can be reached by email at mclapp@thecomeback.com.