Winning its season opener and first home game of the year, Virginia Tech football defeated Old Dominion 36-17 Saturday at Lane Stadium, setting a good benchmark of performance statistics to build upon for the season.
For a deeper look at the numbers:
Stats with Salas
Tech opened the scoring in the game thanks to a bad snap from ODU’s center that went over its punter and through the back of the endzone for a safety. The 2-0 score to start the game for Tech was the first time since Stephan Virgil blocked a Nebraska punt that went through the back of the end zone in the first quarter at Memorial Stadium on Sept. 27, 2008.
TDs in Debut
Ali Jennings made his dream of being a Hokie a big one Saturday night. He became the first wide receiver to score a touchdown in their first game in maroon and orange since Tayvion Robinson scored on a 20-yard pass from Ryan Willis at Boston College to open the 2019 season. It’s just the third time since 1987 that it’s happened. Bryan Still made his Hokie debut in the seventh game of the 1992 season at Miami. Still made his first catch with 1:50 to go in the game, a 7-yard pass from Maurice DeShazo. In fact, Jennings, Robinson and Still’s first career catches were for a touchdown.
Transfers Leading the Way
The transfer portal is proving itself so far this season with four new faces on the team having big impacts for the Hokies. Bhayshul Tuten (NC A&T) leads all rushers with 55 yards and had a 21-yard kick return, Ali Jennings (ODU) leads all receivers with 72 yards and two touchdowns. Jaylin Lane (Middle Tennessee) tops the all-purpose yards list with 107 including 20 punt return yards. Defensively, Antwaun Powell-Ryland (Florida) picked up 6 tackles (4 solo, 2 assists), 2.0 sacks for 9 yards and forced a fumble.
We had to dig deep into the stats archives, which go back to 1985, for this one. We found just six prior games where two players with the same last name had a reception in the game. Allan and Kent Thomas against West Virginia in 1985, Cornelius and Ranall White against Rutgers and Virginia in 1993, Emmett and Richard Johnson against UConn and Miami in 2001 and again against Rutgers in 2002. Despite the Hokies having 34 sets of brothers on the team since 1987, including 17 sets of brothers on the team at the same time, none of them were related. Enter Benji and Stephen Gosnell, the brothers from North Carolina became the first pair of brothers since at least 1985 to both have a reception in the same game, getting it done last night versus ODU.
Converting When it Counts
Good football teams find ways to extend drives and that comes down to being efficient on third down offensively. Saturday, the Hokies did just that, recording an 8 for-16 clip (50%) on money downs, marking just the second time in the Brent Pry era that they’ve converted on at least half of their third-down tries (Wofford; 7-for-13; 53.8%). Of their eight conversions versus the Monarchs, it was an even split of passing (4) and rushing (4). However, three of the four passing plays ended up being chunk plays caught by Jennings (44 yards) and Lane twice (34 yards, 20 yards), including his touchdown. Tech’s average on third down was 7.4 yards to the first-down marker.
The Hokies wore white helmets, maroon jerseys and white pants to open the season. It was the first time the Hokies opened the season in that combination and are now 11-2 since 1987.
Third Phase Executes When Called Upon
Tech’s return units showcased the possibility of being a crucial cog in shifting momentum during games when a spark is needed. In his lone punt return, sophomore Tucker Holloway ripped off a 66-yard return late in the fourth quarter after Old Dominion’s final offensive possession. Overall, special teams executed well in the opener, with kicker John Love knocking both of his field goal attempts through the uprights and captain Peter Moore booting the longest punt of the day for 57 yards. Finding success on special teams is crucial to maximizing opportunities, and the player wearing No. 25 sets that tone.
No. 25 Shows Up in a Big Way
Safety Nasir Peoples performed at a very high level as the first player to wear Beamer’s iconic number this season. The Abington, Pennsylvania native made plays all over the field, tying for second on the team in tackles (7), forcing a fumble late in the third and recovering a fumble earlier in the quarter. Peoples was named a defensive captain for the season and set a high standard for the remainder of the defense.
Creating takeaways early
Turnovers were hard to come by for the defense in 2022, finishing with only nine on the season. Tech’s ‘Lunch Pail’ defense was reminiscent of its past, creating three takeaways and amassing a third of last year’s production in a single outing. Under the guidance of defensive coordinator Chris Marve, the team forced three fumbles and added an interception by cornerback Dorian Strong. Generating more opportunities for the offense by creating takeaways is a formula that the defense could thrive on.
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