BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech’s to-do list after a season-opening loss to top-ranked Alabama:
Clean up the special teams play. Check.
Catch the catchable passes. Check.
Take care of business against a team at the opposite end of the power spectrum, FCS member Western Carolina. Check.
“We’re a work in progress,” said Hokies Coach Frank Beamer. “I thought we took another step and did some good things.”
Those good things included better special teams play after giving up touchdowns on punt and kickoff returns in last week’s 35-10 loss to the Crimson Tide. The lone blemish was a muffed fair catch by Kyshoen Jarrett at the Virginia Tech 11 that led to Western Carolina’s only points, a 28-yard field goal. Beamer said he thought a Western Carolina player interfered, causing the ball to glance off Jarrett’s foot.
Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas also got more help from his receivers, who dropped twice as many as they caught in his 5-of-26 performance last week. Ten different receivers caught passes as Thomas finished 17 of 31 for 200 yards and one touchdown. Little-used Willie Byrn led the way with four catches for 58 yards.
“I think it was stressed that we were going to spread the ball around more than against Alabama,” Byrn said.
Said Thomas: “I’ve been really comfortable with everybody the entire time. It’s just having confidence in themselves and going to make plays.”
It wasn’t all smooth for the fifth-year senior, however. He had two passes intercepted in the end zone in the first half.
Catamounts quarterback Eddie Sullivan struggled mightily against relentless Hokies pressure. He was sacked only once, but threw three interceptions — all in the first half — and finished 4 of 14 for 51 yards.
Detrick Bonner had two of those interceptions, returning the first one 37 yards for a touchdown. He brought the other one back 35 yards just before the half, but that was followed by Thomas’s second pick of the game to kill a Hokies scoring threat.
The Hokies showed balance on offense, grinding out 237 yards rushing to go with their 225 passing. Starting tailback Trey Edmunds finished with 68 yards on 15 carries, including two 1-yard touchdowns. Joel Caleb also had a 13-yard touchdown run.
The less-than-capacity crowd of 61,335 ended a streak of 93 home sellouts dating to 1998.
“I appreciate the ones who showed up,” Beamer said. “We’ll keep trying to get better for them.”