T.J. Lee blocked a punt and returned it 27 yards for a touchdown with 1:52 left to help East Carolina stun No. 17 Virginia Tech 27-22 on Saturday.
The Hokies, long known for stout defense and special teams, seemed to have control of the game thanks to Stephan Virgil's 30-yard fumble return for a touchdown and his 2-point conversion off a blocked extra point.
But it was the Pirates (1-0) who came up with the big plays on defense and special teams in the end, scoring the game's final 15 points.
East Carolina continued its turnaround days after Coach Skip Holtz was given a new six-year contract after rescuing the program from rough times.
After Patrick Pinkney's 3-yard touchdown run with 3:36 left cut the deficit to 22-20, the Pirates stopped the Hokies' struggling offense. Lee burst through the line of scrimmage unblocked. He smothered Brent Bowden's punt, scooped up the ball on one bounce and ran into the end zone.
Virginia Tech quarterback Sean Glennon then finished a frustrating day with an incomplete pass on fourth down deep in his own territory, setting off a wild celebration among the Pirates' fans at the neutral-site contest.
Pinkney completed 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, Jonathan Williams rushed for 48 yards and a score and East Carolina built off its Hawaii Bowl upset of Boise State with a win vs. the favorites in the Atlantic Coast Conference's Coastal Division.
The Pirates led Virginia Tech last year before eventually succumbing, 17-7 in Blacksburg.
And with Virginia Tech limited to 243 yards of offense, Coach Frank Beamer's decision to start Glennon will continue to be second-guessed.
NO. 3 SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA 52,
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. - Mark Sanchez threw three touchdown passes in his first game as Southern California's true No. 1 quarterback and the third-ranked Trojans rolled over Virginia.
The Trojans lead 21-0 after just 11 minutes and weren't tested, allowing Coach Pete Carroll to keep things simple in advance of a home game against No. 2 Ohio State in two weeks.
Sanchez, just more than three weeks removed from a dislocated kneecap that kept him out of practice until this week, showed no ill effects. He was 26-for-35 for 338 yards.
The junior started three games last season, filling in for the injured John David Booty and going 2-1. Now, USC is Sanchez's team, and it appears to be in good hands.
Virginia had former stars Tiki and Ronde Barber and Chris Long in attendance and a Scott Stadium record crowd of 64,947 on hand, but the Cavaliers had minus-15 yards on their first three offensive series and needed 25 yards in penalties on their lone scoring drive.
The Cavaliers' score came on Mikell Simpson's 7-yard run late in the first quarter, after a 15-yard roughing the passer flag and a 10-yard pass interference call against the Trojans.
Virginia never threatened again and USC was near flawless.
BOSTON COLLEGE 21,
KENT STATE 0
CLEVELAND - Quarterback Chris Crane, who waited four years for his chance to run the offense, ran for two touchdowns to lead Boston College to a season-opening win vs. Kent State.
Making just his second career start, Crane, a fifth-year senior who spent last season sitting behind former BC star and Atlanta Falcons starter Matt Ryan, completed 12 of 18 passes for 106 yards. He scored on a 10-yard run in the first quarter, a 6-yarder early in the fourth to make it 21-0 and kept his mistakes to a minimum while directing BC's ground-heavy attack.
The Eagles, who climbed as high as No. 2 in the polls last season before finishing 10th in the AP Top 25, had little trouble with the Mid-American Conference's Golden Flashes.
Boston College took a 14-0 lead in the first quarter and then turned things over to its veteran defense, which didn't allow the Golden Flashes inside its 45 until the fourth quarter and posted its first shutout since 2006.
COLLEGE PARK, Md. - Da'Rel Scott ran for 197 yards in his first college start, and Maryland used three quarterbacks in an attempt to generate some offense in a lackluster win against Delaware.
Scott carried 26 times and had runs of 40, 37 and 26 yards. The 5-foot-11, 192-pound sophomore totaled 137 yards rushing last season in nine games as a backup.
The last Maryland running back to gain that much yardage on the ground was Bruce Perry, who had 237 against Wake Forest on Nov. 29, 2003.
But the Terrapins missed three field goals and had trouble pulling away from Delaware, which has 14 starters back from the team that last year advanced to the Football Championship Subdivision title game.
JAMES MADISON 7
DURHAM, N.C. - Thaddeus Lewis threw two touchdown passes to Eron Riley, and Duke beat James Madison to give David Cutcliffe a victory in his coaching debut with the Blue Devils.
Lewis completed 17 of 28 passes for 141 yards with touchdowns covering 7 and 20 yards to Riley for the Blue Devils, who shook off a pregame weather delay and scored on four straight possessions to secure their first season-opening victory since beating East Carolina in 2002.
NORTH CAROLINA 35,
McNEESE STATE 27
CHAPEL HILL, N.C. - Brandon Tate put on a dazzling one-man show, scoring on an 82-yard punt return and putting North Carolina ahead for good with a 57-yard catch to help the Tar Heels hold off McNeese State.
Tate finished with a school-record 397 all-purpose yards for the Tar Heels, who showed little else in an unimpressive start to their second season under Butch Davis. In a game suspended nearly two hours due to weather, they blew a 14-0 first-half lead and had to rally from a third-quarter deficit against a Football Championship Subdivision opponent that outplayed them much of the way.