By Jimmy Robertson, Hokiesports.com
BLACKSBURG – Virginia Tech got its season started on a positive note, getting 251 yards passing from quarterback Michael Brewer and 106 yards rushing from tailback Shai McKenzie in a 34-9 victory over William & Mary on Saturday.
The Hokies won their home opener for the 25th time in Frank Beamer’s 28 seasons.
“I was impressed with them, but I was impressed with our own team,” Beamer said. “We had a lot of young people contributing, and I told this team, I’ve been around a lot of teams for an opening ball game, but I really like this football team. I like what they’re all about. I like the way they handle themselves. There’s not a lot of stuff going on. I really like this team – a lot.”
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 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 kicker Joey Slye kicked field goals of 20 and 27 yards for the Hokies. 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.”
Tech pulled away by scoring on three straight drives and four of five spanning the first and second halves. The big play in the game came midway through the second quarter, when 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.
That started the scoring streak. Slye added a 20-yard field goal toward the end of the first half to give the Hokies a 17-6 lead at halftime, and then Slye’s 27-yarder capped a 74-yard drive to open the second half, giving the Hokies a 20-6 lead.
“It was huge,” Williams said of the play. “I haven’t had a clean shot like that in a long time, and I wasn’t going to waste that opportunity. We had a great play called. It was in the game plan to really get after the quarterback like that.”
William & Mary cut it to 20-9 on John Carpenter’s third 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.
McKenzie, who enrolled in January but missed spring practice while recovering from an ACL tear suffered last fall while in high school, became the first true freshman to rush for more than 100 yards in a season opener at Tech since Shyrone Stith in 1996.
“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.”
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.”
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.
Tech returns to action next Saturday when it travels to Ohio State with kick off scheduled for 8 p.m.