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Virginia Tech shook off a sluggish first quarter to roll past Western Carolina, 45-3, in the home opener Saturday. The Hokies led just 7-0 after one quarter thanks to a Detrick Bonner interception return for a touchdown and had just three first downs.
"I think we're a work in progress," Frank Beamer said. "I think we have to continue with the plan of keep on getting better."
VT recovered once the first quarter ended and rolled to the victory behind a defense that forced three turnovers and heavily swung the field position battle in favor of the Hokies. The Catamounts were held to just 162 total yards on the day, including just 51 through the air.
Quarterback Logan Thomas fared much better today than a week ago against Alabama. Thomas completed 17 of 31 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown. He threw two interceptions on jump balls in the end zone to Demetri Knowles that may have been more Knowles fault than his own.
"One-on-one coverage, we got to make a play," Thomas said. "I got to put better placement, but we also have to make a play."
Redshirt freshman running back Chris Mangus got the majority of the work in the second half and, thanks to a 76-yard touchdown run in the third quarter, led the team in rushing with 84 yards on five carries. Running back Trey Edmunds gained 68 yards on 15 carries and punched in two touchdowns.
The poor offensive start ended in the second quarter, as the Hokies put together back-to-back touchdown drives during which they ran a combined 25 plays, gained 156 yards, and took up 10:45 of game time.
The first touchdown drive - a 16-play, 87-yarder - ended with a one-yard Edmunds touchdown run.
The second touchdown drive ended when Thomas found receiver D.J. Coles in the end zone for a 19-yard touchdown reception. It was the first play of the game for Coles.
"D.J. can be as good as he wants to be," Thomas said. "We're trying to get him back healthy. His knee has kind of been on-and-off here for awhile, but D.J. helps us tremendously in our receiving corp experience wise."
Wide receivers Willie Byrn and Joshua Stanford and tight end Kalvin Cline tied for the team lead in receptions with four a piece. Cline dropped a touchdown pass during the second half.
"I was like 'Oh, man here it comes' and took my eye off it and dropped it," Kline said. "But it was a great ball, perfect placement. I just have to make the play."
Bonner's 37-yard interception return occurred with just over six minutes left in the first quarter. True freshman Kendall Fuller assisted on the play, as it was his tip that landed the ball in the hands of Bonner.
Bonner added another interception late in the second quarter, when he played center field and picked off a deep ball from Western Carolina quarterback Eddie Sullivan. He returned that one to near midfield.
Mangus' long touchdown run got the Hokies off to a great start in the second half and really put the game out of reach for the Catamounts.
Bud Foster's defense lost the shutout bid mid-way through the third quarter after Kyshoen Jarrett let a Western Carolina punt hit him in the leg. The Catamounts recovered and kicked a short field goal after three negative plays from there.
"I think everyone is kind of disappointed that we let up three points," linebacker Jack Tyler said. "Going forward, I think we're making steps, we're improving, we're doing the right things. We can be the best defense in the country."
Tyler led the Hokies with 11 tackles on the day.
Virginia Tech responded immediately with a seven play, 50-yard drive that ended with Edmunds' second one-yard touchdown run of the day.
After another three-and-out by the Catamounts, the Hokies marched down and allowed kickerCody Journell to get in on the action. Journell's 30-yarder early in the fourth quarter moved the score to 38-3.
Cline became the 10th true freshman to play this season for the Hokies. He hauled in four receptions for 46 yards. Running back Joel Caleb became the 11th when he got his first carry of his career in the fourth quarter.
Caleb finished with six carries for 36 yards and a touchdown. He scored the final touchdown of the game on a 13-yard run up the middle in the final minutes of the game to make it 45-3.
"I like the attitude of this football team," Beamer said. "I like the way we practice, our want to. We're just not very pretty to look at, but maybe we'll get prettier as the year goes on."
Next week, the Hokies travel to East Carolina to renew their series with the Pirates.