Tech takes care of ODU in home opener

Virginia Tech quarterback Ryan Willis prepares to take a snap during the Hokies' 2019 home opener win over Old Dominion.
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BLACKSBURG, Va. (VT Athletics) -- Virginia Tech grabbed an early lead and never relinquished it en route to a 31-17 nonconference victory over Old Dominion on Saturday afternoon at Lane Stadium.

The victory pushed the Hokies to 1-1 on the season, while ODU fell to 1-1. Tech also avenged last season's 49-35 loss to the Monarchs in Norfolk.

Tech took command on its opening possession, marching 77 yards in 10 plays. A 20-yard pass play from quarterback Ryan Willis to tight end James Mitchell got the Hokies to the ODU 4, and on the next play, Keshawn King scored on a 4-yard run. Brian Johnson's extra point gave the Hokies a 7-0 lead less than 4 minutes into the game.

Tech pushed the lead to 24-3 on a Willis touchdown run on the first drive of the second half. Tech went 93 yards in 12 plays, finishing it off with a 1-yard run by Willis with 6:40 remaining in the third quarter.

The Monarchs made it a game with touchdowns on back-to-back drives spanning the third and fourth quarters. ODU quarterback Stone Smartt scored on a 3-yard run with 1:24 left in the third quarter, and then Smart added another rushing touchdown minutes later with a 15-yard scamper that cut the Tech lead to 24-17 with 13:15 remaining.

But a long kickoff return by Terius Wheatley put the Hokies in great position, and Tech capitalized when Willis threw a 13-yard touchdown pass to Phil Patterson with just under 12 minutes to go. The Hokies weren't threatened again.

Tech finished with 403 yards of offense – led by Willis' 272 yards passing. ODU had 324 yards of offense.

ODU had cut the Hokies' lead to 24-17 after a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Stone Smartt, but on the ensuing kickoff, Tech's Terius Wheatley ripped off a 71-yard return to the ODU 17. That set up a 13-yard touchdown pass from Willis to Phil Patterson to push the lead to 30-17.

Wheatley's return marked the longest by a Tech player since Der'Woun Greene's 82-yard return against Purdue in 2015.

• Willis' 272 yards passing gave him 5,862 for his career. He has thrown for at least 250 yards in six of his 12 career starts as a Tech quarterback.

• Willis' touchdown passes marked the 41st and 42nd of his career.

• Willis' 1-yard touchdown run marked the sixth of his career (five at Tech).

• Patterson's touchdown reception marked the second of his career. He hauled one in against Duke in Tech's 31-14 victory over the Blue Devils.

• Keshawn King's 4-yard touchdown run on the Hokies' opening possession marked the first of his career.

• Hezekiah Grimsley caught a touchdown pass for the second straight game, making a one-handed grab of a pass for a 9-yard touchdown late in the first half. The touchdown reception marked his second of the season and the third of his career.

• For the second consecutive game, Tayvion Robinson led the Hokies in receptions. He finished with four catches for 62 yards.

• Tech's defense did a nice job of limiting big plays. ODU finished with just three rushes of more than 20 yards and just one pass play of more than 20 yards.

The Hokies return to the field Saturday when they take on Furman in another nonconference game at Lane Stadium. Kickoff for the game is slated for noon and can be watched on the ACC Network. Tech has won all six meetings in the series with the Paladins.