BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech entered its season opener with 32 players on the dress squad who never had played in a collegiate game for the Hokies, including 17 true freshmen and a starting quarterback who transferred in over the summer.
Considering what transpired on the field, head coach Frank Beamer came out of the game feeling rather positive about his team’s potential for this season.
Behind the steady play of quarterback Michael Brewer and strong performances from several freshmen, the Hokies cruised to a 34-9 season-opening victory over William & Mary on Saturday.
Brewer, a transfer from Texas Tech who won the starting job just a week ago, completed 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards, with two touchdowns to lead Virginia Tech. He completed passes to nine different receivers, including touchdown passes of 13 yards to Isaiah Ford and 8 yards to Bucky Hodges — both of whom are freshmen.
Freshman Joey Slye kicked field goals of 20 and 27 yards for the Hokies, and another freshman, Shai McKenzie, added 106 yards rushing on nine carries, including a touchdown run.
Freshmen scored all but six points for the Hokies.
“I think we’ll only get better,” Beamer said. “We saw a lot from the young guys. I told you guys that I feel really good about where this thing is going. I feel really good about where we are as a program. It’s only one game, and I understand all that, but I like where this thing is going.”
Virginia Tech pulled away by scoring on three straight drives and four of five spanning the first and second halves.
The Hokies led 7-6 midway through the second quarter, but Tech’s Chase Williams sacked Steve Cluley, forcing him to fumble. Derek Di Nardo got the ball for the Hokies and ran 45 yards to the Tribe 2. Virginia Tech later converted when Brewer found Hodges for the 8-yard score, giving the Hokies a 14-6 lead.
Brewer threw for more touchdowns in the first half than he did all of last season as a backup at Texas Tech (he threw one). He was slated to be the starter for the Red Raiders, but missed the first four games with a back injury and never regained his job. He decided to transfer, graduating from Texas Tech in May and enrolling at Virginia Tech this summer.
“It felt good,” Brewer said of his performance. “We were able to put some things together on that first drive (that led to Ford’s 13-yard score), and all it took was a couple of plays and I felt like my old self. I felt like we got in a good rhythm, and we were able to move the football.
“Overall, obviously there are some things we need to work on. We had some first-game hiccups, but I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
William & Mary cut it to 20-9 on John Carpenter’s field goal, but the Tribe started to wear down toward the end of the third quarter. On the Hokies’ final possession of the third, they went 80 yards on just four plays, scoring when McKenzie got in on a 39-yard run to give Virginia Tech a 27-9 lead.
“We just got overpowered,” William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock said. “They were too quick and strong and athletic.
“I thought we played pretty hard. I would have liked us to play better. It came down to some major mistakes against a team like Virginia Tech that we knew we couldn’t make.”
McKenzie was the Hokies’ third tailback in the game. He enrolled at Virginia Tech in January, but missed all of spring practice while recovering from a torn ACL suffered last fall. But he played well enough against the Tribe to pace the Hokies to a 222-yard rushing day.
“I was a little bit nervous,” McKenzie said. “It was a blessing to be back out there after that injury. I’m feeling a lot better. I’m still rehabbing, but any time I’m out there playing, I don’t feel it. I’m just in the zone and trying to make plays any time I touch the ball.”
Carpenter provided all the scoring for the Tribe. He hit field goals of 36, 29 and 44 yards.
William & Mary finished with just 193 yards of total offense. Tailback Mikal Abdul-Saboor led the way with 85 yards on 10 carries — 40 on one run. Cluley completed 8 of 21 for 108 yards and was sacked four times.
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