BLACKSBURG — As the freshly minted starting quarterback for Virginia Tech, Michael Brewer took the safe route early this week when asked about personal ambitions for the season, simply stating he just wanted to win.
His modest goal sheet is still unblemished after Week 1 of the season, thanks to plenty of assistance from some young contributors. Now, a more intimidating challenge awaits in Columbus, Ohio, for Brewer and his teammates.
Brewer helped Tech overwhelm William and Mary 34-9 by completing 23 of 30 passes for 251 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while running an offense that often emphasized a faster pace than past Tech teams. In maybe the ultimate sign of the times for Tech, the Hokies got 28 of their points from players who never had played in a college game before Saturday.
"All it took was a couple plays, and I felt like my old self," said Brewer, who led Tech on an 84-yard drive on its first possession, punctuated by a 13-yard touchdown pass to true freshman wide receiver Isaiah Ford. "I felt like we got in a good rhythm and we were able to move the football. Overall, I thought it was good. Obviously, there's some things we need to work on, first game hiccups, but I think we're moving in the right direction."
While the victory showed Tech has explosive capability in the passing game and on the ground behind freshman running back Shai McKenzie, it came against a willing, but outclassed Football Championship Subdivision opponent.
Can Tech show anywhere near the same kind of huge play potential next Saturday at No. 5 Ohio State, which put Navy away 34-17? At the very least, Tech (1-0) was able to dream big after the win against W&M, and revel in some of its accomplishments on offense.
"We're trying to change the tempo a little bit," said Tech coach Frank Beamer, who played nine of the 17 true freshman that dressed for the game. "I like that. I thought Logan (Thomas) was probably at his best when we speeded up the tempo. … I think with young talent, it's very much of hopefully improving each and every week, and we need to improve. … We better be a lot better (against Ohio State). I think we can be a lot better."
Tech finished with 488 yards, including 222 yards on the ground. McKenzie had nine carries for 106 yards, highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown run over right tackle in the third quarter to put Tech up 27-9.
While Tech excelled on the offensive side, converting 8 of 15 third downs and scoring on all five trips in the red zone, it was just as stout on defense. W&M (0-1) managed only 193 yards, and converted just 1 of 12 third downs. It had 65 yards in the second half.
"I thought we played hard," W&M coach Jimmye Laycock said. "I would have liked for us to play better."
Defense was responsible for getting Tech pointed in the right direction after W&M threatened to make it a game early. With Tech up 7-6 midway through the second quarter, linebacker Chase Williams got a clean shot in against W&M quarterback Steve Cluley, knocking the ball loose from Cluley's grasp via a sack.
Derek Dinardo, a surprise starter at outside linebacker over Ronny Vandyke who played despite a groin injury, scooped up the fumble and ran 45 yards to W&M's 2-yard line. It took the Hokies five plays to get in the end zone, after W&M was penalized for pass interference with Tech facing third-and-goal from the 2, and Tech was pushed back six yards on an illegal formation penalty.
With 5:40 left in the second quarter, Brewer finally capped the drive with an 8-yard touchdown pass to redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges, who led Tech with six catches for 38 yards.
"You talk about the stage not being too big," said Beamer of Brewer, who completed throws to 10 different pass-catchers. "I thought he was very much in control. He handled himself great. He picked up some valuable yards when it broke down a little bit. He never panicked."
After Hodges' touchdown catch, Tech's lead never got under eight points again. True freshman kicker Joey Slye got into the scoring act with the other first-year players, adding field goals of 20 and 27 yards, and four extra points.
Junior running back J.C. Coleman capped Tech's scoring with 13:40 left in the fourth quarter on a 2-yard touchdown run set up by a Donovan Riley recovery of a muffed punt by W&M's Tre Reed at the Tribe 28.
McKenzie led a foursome of scholarship running backs who played in the game, including Coleman, true freshman Marshawn Williams from Phoebus High and Joel Caleb. McKenzie had 95 of his yards on the ground after halftime. Williams had 41 yards on a team-high 12 carries.
"I was a little bit nervous coming into the stadium," said McKenzie, who declared himself fully recovered after tearing an anterior cruciate ligament last fall. "It's just a blessing to be back out there after an injury. I was a little tired after that (touchdown) run, but it felt good."
Wood can be reached by phone at 757-247-4642.