ATLANTA – Virginia Tech tailback Trey Edmunds rushed for more than 100 yards in his collegiate debut, but two returns for touchdowns on special teams and an interception return for a touchdown propelled No.-1 ranked Alabama past the Hokies 35-10 on Saturday night in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Game at the Georgia Dome.
The Crimson Tide, the defending national champions, got three touchdowns from junior receiver Christion Jones, including two on returns, and safety Vinnie Sunseri returned an interception 38 yards for a touchdown. That would be all the Crimson Tide would need despite being out-gained on the evening (212-206).
“I think when you’re playing a lot of young kids, and you’re playing them on special teams, it can really show up,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “That’s no excuse. We’ve got to evaluate our personnel, kickoff coverage-wise, kickoff return-wise … the whole deal. The good part about it is I think we can correct it and get a lot better. We’re going to get those special teams right.”
Jones got things going for Alabama with a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown less than two minutes into the game, giving the Tide a 7-0 lead. Then toward the end of the first half – after the Hokies had cut the Tide lead to 21-10 with a field goal – Jones returned the ensuing kickoff 94 yards for a touchdown.
His final touchdown came in the third quarter on a 38-yard catch from quarterback A.J. McCarron. Jones finished with 256 all-purpose yards.
Tech’s lone touchdown came from Edmunds, who got in the end zone late in the first quarter and the Hokies trailing 14-0. On just his third career carry in his first college game, he burst between the tackles and then out-ran the rest of Alabama’s defense 77 yards for a touchdown.
Edmunds finished with 132 yards rushing on 20 carries. He because the first Tech tailback to rush for more than 100 yards in his debut since Shyrone Stith ran for 119 yards in the 1996 season opener at Akron.
“Wonderful,” Edmunds said when asked to evaluate the offensive line’s performance. “I thought they blocked their butts off for me. They made it easy on me.”
Despite Edmunds’ performance, Tech’s offense finished with just 212 yards. Quarterback Logan Thomas completed 5 of 26 for 59 yards, with the one interception. But Thomas received little in the way of help, as Tech’s receivers dropped several passes.
“We’ve just got to correct some stuff,” Thomas said. “They [the receivers] can be as good as they want to be. We’ve just got to push the right buttons and get them going, and once they do, we’re going to be a dangerous offense.
“I think you can ask any of the guys, and they’re all encouraged. Obviously, we’re upset that we lost, but most of us have smiles on our faces because we know how good we can be. The defense didn’t give up three of those touchdowns, and that’s what made the score skewed.”
Tech’s defense played well for most of the night, holding the Tide to 206 yards and sacked McCarron four times. McCarron completed just 10 of 23 for 110 yards, with an interception. Tide tailback T.J. Yeldon ran for 75 yards on 17 carries.
“It’s kind of like what I said in preseason,” Beamer said. “We’ve got a good defense, and we’ve got great kickers. We’ve just got to get the people playing around Logan a little better. I thought our offensive line hung in there against a tough, tough defense. I think there were a lot of positive things that came out this game. The points that we gave them shouldn’t have happened. Those were critical plays, but I firmly believe we can be a good football team.”
The Hokies now gear up for the home opener next Saturday against Western Carolina. The kickoff is slated for 1:30 p.m.
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