Virginia Tech beat Arkansas State 26-7 in a non-conference contest Saturday, mustering just enough offense and working on some facets of their game that were lacking against East Carolina on Sept. 10.
Virginia Tech — which committed 12 penalties in its 17-10 win at ECU — had just five called Saturday. Its Sun Belt Conference opponent, the Arkansas State Red Wolves (1-2), had notched 611 yards in drubbing Memphis 47-3, before squaring off against the Hokies. Tech (3-0) had won all three previous meetings between the two schools by a combined score of 147-14.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas (a paltry 43.6 percent completion rate in wins over Appalachian State and East Carolina, with 240 total passing yards) had a much better day, completing 21 of 33 passes for 292 yards and two touchdowns.
"I felt very prepared going into the game," said Thomas, who did throw two second-half interceptions. "I'm slowly but surely getting to the point where I want to be."
The Red Wolves struck first, scoring three minutes into the game for a 7-0 lead. A 51-yard pass from ASU quarterback Ryan Aplin to Taylor Stockemer highlighted a three-play drive. That score followed an unsuccessful opening drive by Tech, which lost flanker Dyrell Roberts to a broken left arm after his 28-yard kickoff return.
Coach Frank Beamer said after the game that Roberts, a Smithfield High product, could be done for the season.
The Tech defense then backed Aplin in to his own end zone after the Hokies failed to convert on a fourth-and-one at the ASU one-yard line, notching a safety when Aplin intentionally grounded the ball.
"I think that safety was a big momentum changer," said first-year Arkansas State head coach Hugh Freeze.
Two minutes later (5:30 left in the 1st quarter) Virginia Tech took a 9-7 lead on a five play drive. D.J. Coles hauled in a sideline pass from Thomas and scampered 49 yards for the score.
Coles knows he may get more playing time with Roberts out: "It's my time to step up."
A Jayron Hosley interception led to another Tech touchdown and a 16-7 advantage just before the first quarter ended. Senior flanker Danny Coale (7 catches for 128 yards) finished off a short drive with a four yard TD grab.
Cody Journell hit the right goalpost on a 40 yard field-goal attempt for Tech early in the second quarter but the Hokies hit pay dirt with 4:12 left, scoring on an 11 play drive for a 23-7 lead at halftime.
Journell nailed a 30-yarder for a 26-7 Hokies advantage with 9:57 to play in the third quarter. Hosley then thwarted a Red Wolves scoring attempt with another interception at Tech's five yard line, although Virginia Tech couldn't cash in and would not score again.
"We wanted to get back to that confident defense," said Hosley, who returned his two interceptions for a total of 42 yards. He also noted that the front four recorded three sacks of Aplin (16 for 36, 205 passing yards): "the defense came up big."
Tech held Arkansas State to 269 yards, the first time in 15 games that the Red Wolves had not cracked the 300 yard mark.
"We couldn't run the ball on them, "said Freeze, whose team totaled just 64 rushing yards. The Hokies earned 427 total yards.
Tech tailback David Wilson, averaging 150 rushing yards in his first two games, was held relatively in check by ASU, which featured 10 senior starters on defense. Wilson ran for 93 yards and a touchdown.
"We just have to keep learning from these games and get better," Beamer said. "I think we have the foundation of a good team but we're certainly not there yet."Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times