Corey Moore, the returning Big East defensive player of the year, found today's game against Alabama-Birmingham a little too reminiscent of last season. It's not that the Virginia Tech defensive end minds the defense being depended upon to carry the load, he just doesn't like for his unit to be put in a hole.
Four first-half turnovers gave the Blazers good field position early, but the 11th-ranked Hokies held the Blazers to a school-record 63 yards of total offense en route to a 31-10 victory before a soldout crowd of 51,907 at Lane Stadium.
Last season, the Hokies' top-ranked defense did not allow UAB a single snap in Virginia Tech territory.
This season, courtesy of the four turnovers, the Blazers started inside Virginia Tech territory three times and trailed just 17-10 through most of the game. It was the first time in three years that the Blazers scored against the Hokies.
The Hokies were without starting quarterback Michael Vick, who was sidelined with a sprained left ankle suffered last week against James Madison. Backup Dave Meyer struggled, throwing three first-half interceptions and fumbling once. He finished 12 of 21 for 144 yards and one touchdown. Vick is expected to return Sept. 23 when Virginia Tech (2-0) hosts Clemson.
"We figured [the defense would have to carry the team] coming in but to tell the truth, I'm a little disappointed we didn't have more guys step up on offense," said Moore, who sacked quarterback Daniel Dixon three times for 27 yards.
"It just goes to show how important Michael Vick is to this team. Not to slight anybody, but the guys are inspired when he is in the huddle."
Virginia Tech gave itself room to breathe in the fourth quarter on a 35-yard halfback option touchdown pass from Andre Kendrick to speedster Andre Davis with 13 minutes 43 seconds remaining for a 24-10 lead. The Hokies added a late score by reserve tailback Lee Suggs from one yard out.
"We throw it in practice a lot," Hokies Coach Frank Beamer said of the halfback option using Kendrick, a former high school quarterback. "I thought he overthrew him at first, but Andre, he was using that 4.2 speed and went and got it."
Meyer opened the scoring with a 41-yard pass to Emmett Johnson 2:08 into the game.
The Hokies' defense set up Virginia Tech's second touchdown, forcing the Blazers to punt from their 1 after Ike Charlton and Moore each tackled runners for losses. Virginia Tech drove only 39 yards in six plays, ending with Shyrone Stith's one-yard dive over the pile.
In between, Shayne Graham booted a 22-yard field goal to give the Hokies a 10-0 lead with just under four minutes remaining in the opening quarter.
A fumble by Meyer at the Hokies' 29 led to Dixon's touchdown pass to Percy Coleman with 11:10 left in the second quarter. Jake Arians, son of former Virginia Tech quarterback Bruce Arians, kicked a career-long 47-yard field goal 38 seconds before halftime to pull the Blazers to 17-10.
Moore said he never was concerned, despite the close first-half score.
"I've said all along that this is a senior-led group that would not, even faced with adversity, let this team fail," Moore said.
Virginia Tech forced UAB to punt on its first four possessions of the second half and, perhaps more importantly, Meyer and the offense did not commit any second-half turnovers. Stith rushed a career-high 29 times for 124 yards and a touchdown.
"I'm really happy with this football team," Beamer said.
"Good football teams know how to win in the second half and I think that's what our team did today."
CAPTION: Alabama-Birmingham's James Williams, right, knocks away pass intended for Hokies' Emmett Johnson. Johnson caught three passes, one for a touchdown.