Virginia Tech defensive back Detrick Bonner recorded two interceptions, returning one for a touchdown, and the Hokies rebounded from their season-opening loss to No. 1 Alabama by methodically putting away Western Carolina 45-3 in the home opener on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.
The Hokies (1-1) allowed just 162 yards and forced three turnovers in winning their home opener for the 24th time in head coach Frank Beamer’s 27 seasons. The Catamounts (0-2), a Football Championship Subdivision member in the Southern Conference, have lost 12 straight games.
“I thought we took another step,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “I think we’ve got to continue keeping on getting better and try to be as good as we can be for the ACC opener. Some of it [the game] was ragged, but I thought we took another step and did some good things. We’ve got some things we need to do better, but we did a lot of good things, too. We’ve just got to keep on working week to week and make sure we’re ready for ACC play.”
Bonner got the Hokies on the board in this one, intercepting a pass by Western Carolina quarterback Eddie Sullivan in the first quarter that had been tipped by Tech cornerback Kendall Fuller. Bonner returned it 37 yards for a touchdown, and Cody Journell’s extra point gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead with 6:14 left in the first quarter.
Bonner became the first Tech player to score a defensive touchdown since Jeron Gouveia-Winslow returned an interception for a touchdown against Florida State in the 2010 ACC championship game. With his second interception – Bonner picked off another pass late in the first half – Bonner became the first player since Jayron Hosley in 2011 (Arkansas State) to record two picks in the same game.
“I thought it was a great play by Kendall Fuller,” Bonner said of the interception that he returned for a touchdown. “When the ball is like that in the air, we’ve got to make plays. I was fortunate to get the opportunity.”
“I hope it’s the first of many this year,” Beamer said of the score. “We’ve got to keep working on our kicking game and get some blocks and get some returns. When we’re scoring and it’s not just the offense, but the defense and special teams, too, that’s when we’re really right. That’s what we’re working to get to.”
Trey Edmunds gave the Hokies a 14-0 lead on their next possession. He capped a 16-play, 87-yard drive with a 1-yard run to give Tech a two-touchdown bulge early in the second quarter.
The Hokies added to it moments later, finishing a nine-play, 69-yard drive when quarterback Logan Thomas threw a 19-yard touchdown pass to receiver D.J. Coles. Journell’s extra point gave the Hokies a 21-0 lead with 4:35 left in the half.
On those two drives, Tech ran 25 of the game’s 30 plays, all but putting the game away with Coles’ touchdown reception.
The Hokies finished with 462 yards of offense in this one, most of it coming on the ground. Tech rushed for 237 yards and got second-half touchdowns from Chris Mangus on a 76-yard run and Edmunds, who scored on another 1-yard run. Mangus led the Hokies with 84 yards on five carries, while Edmunds carried the ball 15 times for 68 yards.
Tech also got a lot of production from some unfamiliar names. Former walk-on Willie Byrn caught four passes for 58 yards, while tight end Kalvin Cline became the 10th true freshman to play this season. Cline caught four passes for 46 yards – and none of Tech’s other tight ends caught a pass.
“Last week, I was under the impression that I was redshirting,” said Cline, who did not make the trip to Atlanta for the Alabama game. “Then I got the call up. They [the coaches] were saying that they were thinking about playing me, and then I got more reps in practice and made plays with those reps. They gave me the opportunity in the game, and I tried to make the most of it.”
Yet the Hokies weren’t flawless, turning the ball over three times. Thomas, who completed 13 of 22 for 153 yards, threw two interceptions, and Kyshoen Jarrett’s muffed punt midway through the third quarter led to Western Carolina’s only score, a 28-yard field goal by Richard Sigmon with 5:46 left in the third.
“It’s all stuff we can clean up,” Thomas said. “I had one-on-one coverage there [on the interceptions]. Sometimes, my pass has to be better and I have to put it more outside, and sometimes we have to go and make a play.
“We got a lot of guys involved in the passing game (10 players caught passes), and I think that’s going to give a lot of guys more confidence. I’ve got confidence in my guys. They just have to have confidence in themselves and get ready to go play. I think, today, they took a big step.”
Tech hits the road for its next game, traveling to Greenville, N.C., for a game against East Carolina. Kickoff is slated for noon.