BLACKSBURG, Va. — Virginia Tech running back David Wilson made a promise when his new position coach, Shane Beamer, alerted him early in the week that the first play of Saturday’s season opener against Appalachian State would be a handoff.
“I told him I didn’t need to hear the second play because I was gonna take it to the crib,” Wilson said. “I didn’t think it was gonna really happen.”
But after Hokies safety Antone Exum recovered a Mountaineers fumble on the second offensive play of the day, Wilson delivered on his word.
It took the dynamic playmaker all of six seconds to scamper around the left edge and cross into the end zone, igniting No. 13 Virginia Tech to a 66-13 blowout of Appalachian State from the Football Championship Subdivision and putting to rest any lingering concerns about Virginia Tech’s readiness after last season’s shocking loss to James Madison.
“We just had to go out and show them that at Virginia Tech, we’re not gonna sleep on no one no more,” Hokies safety Eddie Whitley said. “We just came out here and prepared like we were playing Boise State or Alabama.”
Wilson, a junior starting his first game in the backfield after playing second fiddle to Ryan Williams and Darren Evans the past two seasons, sparked the Hokies throughout the afternoon, scoring a career-high three touchdowns and rushing for 162 yards on just 16 carries.
But the more anticipated debut Saturday belonged to redshirt sophomore Logan Thomas, and though he wasn’t spectacular, the Lynchburg, Va., native showed flashes of the talent that Virginia Tech’s coaches have been raving about since he arrived on campus as a highly touted recruit in 2009.
Thomas missed some throws early on and suffered through several drops by his wide receivers, starting the game 3 for 9 on passing attempts. But he gained confidence after a designed run on the last play of the first quarter. The 6-foot-6, 254-pound signal-caller lowered his shoulder and ran over Appalachian State safety Patrick Blalock on his way to a 12-yard gain.
“Everybody gets their jitters, their anxiousness out after their first hit,” Thomas said. “I just felt like I got in a groove after my first hit. It’s always how it’s been.”
Thomas went on to complete six of next 10 throws, including a beautiful 55-yard bomb to wide receiver Marcus Davis and the first two touchdown passes of his career (a seven-yard throw to tight end Randall Dunn and a four-yard dart to senior Jarrett Boykin). Thomas finished the day 9 for 19 for 149 yards and two touchdowns before being removed midway through the third quarter in favor of backup Mark Leal.
Davis led the Hokies with 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns, both of which were thrown by Leal.
Thomas “didn’t have to win the game and we didn’t want him to have to win the game. Not that he couldn’t,” said quarterbacks coach Mike O’Cain, who made his own debut as the team’s play-caller.
If the Hokies’ starting defense plays as well as it did Saturday, O’Cain could prove prescient. Virginia Tech smothered Appalachian State’s spread option, forcing four turnovers while allowing just three first downs and 61 yards in the first half.
By the time the Hokies hit the locker room for halftime, the scoreboard read 38-0 and the second half became nothing more than a glorified scrimmage.
Appalachian State’s two scores, a 46-yard touchdown reception by wide receiver Brian Quick late in the third quarter and a 15-yard touchdown run by quarterback Jamal Jackson in the fourth quarter, came with Virginia Tech’s starters on the bench.
“That was the perfect way to start this thing, because defensively we needed confidence,” said Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer, who has signed a contract extension through 2016, the school announced Saturday. “I think we gained some of that today.”
Even better, the Hokies were able to play a little Beamerball, too.
Running back Tony Gregory blocked a punt early in the third quarter, and cornerback Kyle Fuller recovered it in the end zone. It was the 48th touchdown scored by Virginia Tech’s special teams under Beamer.
After the game, though, it was Wilson’s first touchdown of the day that had everyone talking. The Danville, Va., native said that as soon as he turned the corner and saw a lone Appalachian State defensive back in his way, “I knew I was getting in the end zone.”
So when he reached the sideline, with his promise kept, Wilson and Shane Beamer looked at each other and simply started laughing.
“Hopefully,” Wilson said. “this is just the beginning.”