Virginia Tech Handles Old Dominion In Opener, 36-17

Grant Wells and Virginia Tech handled Old Dominion on Saturday night. (Ivan Morozov)

Though Old Dominion hung around for three quarters, Virginia Tech handled its business in its season opener on Saturday night in a 36-17 victory in front of a sold-out crowd.

The Hokies (1-0) forced three turnovers — two fumbles and an interception — in the second half to create some distance between themselves and the Monarchs (0-1). At the same time, Grant Wells gradually hit his stride, throwing three touchdown passes and rushing for one.

Though the Hokies punted and turned it over on downs on their first two possessions of the ballgame, an ODU special teams miscue handed them the lead. With 4:07 in the first quarter, freshman long snapper Brock Walters fired a snap over the head of punter Ethan Duane that rolled through the back of the end zone for a safety.

On the following drive, Wells hit MTSU transfer Jaylin Lane from 20 yards out for the score, a drive that was set up by a fourth-and-two conversion from Wells and wideout Da’Wain Lofton.

ODU responded with a 16-yard touchdown pass from Grant Wilson to Dominic Dutton, but Tech regained momentum a few minutes later when Wells found ODU transfer Ali Jennings for the 10-yard strike. A 34-yard completion to Lane on third-and-10 helped keep that drive alive.

Tech took a 16-10 lead into the locker room after an Old Dominion field goal that closed the half. And it picked right back up when Georgia Southern transfer Derrick Canteen forced ODU running back Kadarius Calloway to fumble on the opening drive of the third quarter, which was recovered by Nasir Peoples.

Virginia Tech forced three turnovers on Saturday night vs. Old Dominion, in part because of great pressure up front. (Jon Fleming)

Wells & Co. quickly turned that into six points. A 34-yard completion to Norfolk State transfer Da’Quan Felton put them in the red zone, and Wells hit Jennings on a screen for his second touchdown catch of the game.

ODU struck back when Wilson found Keshawn Wicks for a five-yard score, but the Hokies were very efficient in their rally when Wells punched it in from the one. John Love nailed two field goals — from 27 and 21 yards — in the final 15 minutes to give the Hokies a comfortable cushion in their 19-point win.

Other highlights included Peoples’ forced fumble in the third quarter, recovered by Josh Fuga, and Dorian Strong’s interception in the fourth. After creating just 12 miscues last season, Tech had three in 60 minutes against ODU. And after turning the ball over five times in last year’s loss in Norfolk, the Hokies played a clean ballgame on Saturday night with no mistakes.

A number of players had exciting debuts for Virginia Tech, from Florida transfer Antwaun Powell-Ryland (six tackles, two sacks) and Jennings (five catches, 72 yards, two touchdowns) to Lane (four catches, 69 yards, one touchdown), Felton (one catch, 34 yards) and Canteen (one tackle, forced fumble). North Carolina A&T transfer running back Bhayshul Tuten finished with 19 carries for 55 yards.

Tech didn’t opt for its two-quarterback system after first quarter struggles and Wells grew comfortable. He finished 17-for-29 with 251 yards and three scores while running for 27 yards and a touchdown. At one point, he completed nine consecutive throws. He completed a pass to nine different receivers, too.

Up next is Purdue (0-1) on Saturday, Sept. 9 at noon ET from Lane Stadium on ESPN2. The Boilermakers dropped their season opener to Fresno State on Saturday, 39-35.

Tech will be without defensive tackle Pheldarius Payne for the first half of the game after he was ejected for targeting in the third quarter. Jalen Stroman also was ejected for targeting in the first half vs. ODU, though he’ll be available for Purdue.

Box Score: Virginia Tech 36, Old Dominion 17 

37 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Hey, We were 3 and 8 last year. We came out and played hard and won! Did anyone really think we would play a perfect game and not still have work to do? I appreciate the teams effort and improved qua rterback play. Now lets get ready for Purdue. GO HOKIES !

  2. Nice to get a win, score thirty points or more, and see some progress in the passing game. Only concern is the running game as 2.5 yards per carry is pretty poor, especially against a relatively weak team. Seems there were few holes being opened up be the offensive line.

  3. They got the win but the O-line’s run blocking was pretty bad (109 net rushing yds) but their pass blocking was pretty good. Wells had enough time but missed too many throws. He got better in the 2nd half. Our run D got exposed with poor gap coverage and got fooled on the read option too often but did get those turnovers.

  4. Not gonna lie that we left at half time to get away from traffic for the night. Of course, we missed the better half, lol.
    Think the coaches over analyzed the first series inside the 5(?) when they should have just stayed with Drones (or Wells) regardless of the outcome. Defense seemed a little focused on making the run down tackle versus staying in their gaps and assignments.
    Plenty of highlights and things to work on this week also.
    Not a fan of using your two starting RBs as your kickoff returners and ,while at the end of the night, not sure why Holloway wasn’t returning punts all night (tracking an injury but didn’t look slowed on his one return).
    Not why both Holloway and Dukes only got in at the end just cuz when you could have seriously considered a red shirt option, even if it was a pipe dream.
    While I too am frustrated with the run game, would being a past first team hurt our feelings too much? Remember years ago, when fans were made we ran the ball too much. 🤷🏼‍♂️

  5. I was impressed with ODU’s OC and the emotion he showed on the sideline, especially when the series of plays didn’t produce. Reminded me of the intensity of Bud Foster.

  6. Nice article, David! Hokies held serve and avoided a repeat of last year, but they made it difficult on themselves and their fans. If VT will rely on the run up the middle play, they need to work on blocking it effectively. Thankfully our D took control in 4th and Wells got his groove on.

  7. Just let Calloway return punts. He’s the man pretty much hands down. Kid is sumpthin to watch in the return game.

  8. A few observations…
    1. Excellent pass protection.
    2. Run blocking needs much improvement.
    3. Having said number 2 above, Bowen could help the line out by learning there are other running plays besides the Inside Zone.
    4. Why the shotgun on 4th and 1?
    5. Except for forcing turnovers, the defense was disappointing.
    6. Ever the optimist, I believe we will improve.

  9. Why did it take all game to put Holloway in to return punts? He should be options 1, 2, and 3!

  10. This is what I have been talking about! We are not a good team or very well coached IMO, but if we can limit penalties (3) and turnovers (0), we can at least beat worse teams as we are getting better. We have a very weak schedule and should be able to make a bowl at least.

  11. If Mr. Bhayshul Tuten can double-up his 55 run yards against ODU to 110 yards against Purdue,
    I think the impact could help the Hokie passing game in a good way and Tech could possible bring
    home another ‘sweet’ W ??? Even though Tuten had no ‘break-out’ runs, he sure looked like a steam locomotive ready to blow-out the middle of the ODU line !!! I was impressed with the guy !

    1. Not much help from the OL on holes to run through. Love Tuten’s hard running though. Hopefully we get better game by game.

  12. Chris’s recent article highlighted ‘signs of offensive improvement’:
    – Do things look better? The offense had some issues, but was not ‘vanilla’.
    – Score 30+ points: A solid 36 points…34 in the last 3 quarters with missed opportunities in the 1st quarter.
    – Average 4+ yards/carry: Tech had a miserable 2.6 yards/carry with Wells having the highest average & scoring one touchdown….I thought this was Drones’ forte.
    – Complete 60+% passing attempts: Wells was 59%, but he did have 3 passing touchdowns and averaged 14+ yards/completion for 251 yards. This speaks to the offensive line play….steady, but not 5****.
    – Big plays of 20+ yards: I think Tech had 5 this game. I would like to include Love’s field goals…as they were big confidence builders going forward.

    GO HOKIES!!!

    1. Good commentary – I’ll give Wells a pass to 60% (59%…close enough); but the startling failure was 2.6 yds/carry. We can only hope all phases improve from wk 1 to wk 2…some (running game) need to improve much more than the rest.

  13. Seemed like they were keying on the run and single covering wide receivers. I wonder why it took us so long to start throwing to them. But, we did and it worked. So, good enough. Run defense looked weak. But, Purdue got beat at home and let’s hope we improve enough to handle them.

  14. Well, it was a win.

    30+ points, the most since Fuente’s final game here? Check.

    Beat the Spread? Check.

    Won the Turnover battle? Check.

    Never trailed all game? Check.

    All good, those things.

    The running game needs some work, mainly from the OL point of view. Also, the ODU QB had open spaces to gallop, far too many times. The score was 23-17 at one point, and it was a very nervous feeling. Unlike last season, the Hokies pulled away and did not let this one slip through their fingers.

    I saw improvement, but I do not yet know exactly how much improvement. Next week will tell us more.

  15. My principal concern before the game was the offense (considering the most important thing I thought that needed to be addressed in the off season was ignored…the OC). Other than the joke of our first red zone sequence, when Bowen brought in Drones (which led to a total meltdown at the goal line and no points), our offense was vastly improved over last season.

    Surprisingly (and disappointingly) it was the defense that struggled all game. From David’s game description you would never know that ODU routinely gashed our D for long runs (mostly up the middle) for decent to long gains throughout the game. It was only the late turnovers that Tech finally forced that seemed to slow ODU’s offense.

    The schedule only gets tougher from here. Let’s hope Marve and Pry can make vast improvements in the D (and fast), or it’s going to be another long season.

    1. Defense was great in first quarter. When we brought in backup DL & LBs after we went up 9-0, we started going to wrong gaps constantly. We misread the QB pulling or giving on the read option

  16. Running game did struggle but ODU was keyed in to stop the run. The times they did play off the ball, the linebackers first step wwre forward toward the line of scrimmage. ODU’s game plan was to stop the run and make Wells beat them in the air. Wells answered the call. Wells had a good night. He picked ODU’s defense apart. Last year defenses stopped the run but Tech was weak in the passing game. I believe the running game will be better against Purdue.
    Go Hokies!

  17. Tech needs to get better in the run game- both on offense and defense. The passing game looks much better with the new receivers, and I thought the offensive line played well in pass blocking. Bhayshul Tuten was able to drive ahead for yards, but Malachi Thomas had a hard time getting past the line of scrimmage. I feel much better about the hokies after this game, mainly because I don’t think the Monarchs are the pushover that you might expect them to be. Also, special teams played well.

  18. Yes, so glad to get this one in the W column. A little concerned about the running game. Was hoping to see more out of Thomas and Tuten. I’m sure they’ll get it together. Go Hokies!!

  19. No recap of this game would be complete without mentioning the incessant targeting calls that were made/reviewed throughout.

    Better to be 1-0 than 0-1 but still lots of work to do.

  20. Didn’t see the game, but primary concern is lack of rushing yards. Glad to see 0 turnovers and <40 yards in penalties.sone very nice passes and catches in the brief videos I saw.

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