Brewer, McKenzie impress as Tech beats Tribe 34-9

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BLACKSBURG, Va. – Frank Beamer and his coaching staff were looking forward to Saturday’s contest with William & Mary, as they do every season opener, not just because it means a return to meaningful football, but because it offers an opportunity to answer questions.

Saturday night, after Tech’s 34-9 victory over the Tribe, there is a better idea of what the Hokies have to offer.  J.C. Coleman started Saturday as Tech’s number one running back. That may not be the case for much longer.

Despite receiving the lion’s share of the opportunities early on, the junior running back failed to do anything noteworthy with them. He ran for 20 yards on 10 carries and caught two passes but lost one yard. He ran for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, filling a Walmart-sized hole along the left side from two yards out.

While Coleman’s stock dropped, a pair of true freshman running backs threw their name in contention for the top job.

Highlighted by a 39-yard touchdown run late in the third quarter, Shai McKenzie led all Tech running backs with 106 yards on nine carries. McKenzie was the first Tech running back to eclipse the century mark since Trey Edmunds — who played on special teams but didn’t record a carry — did so last season against Marshall.

Marshawn Williams looked good as well, using his big build to run through defenders. He ran 12 times for 41 yards, each of them being well earned.

“Number one, I think they are really good backs,” Beamer said. “Number two, they are very straight ahead (runners). You get tired of tackling those guys all day long. And then number three, I think our offensive line is better. We still have a ways to go, but we have some toughness in there, and some guys that I think they will only get better.”

Another pair of true freshmen, this time at wide receiver, proved that they have the potential to jumpstart an offense that lacked explosiveness and consistency for some of the last few years.

Isaiah Ford caught four passes for 43 yards, including a touchdown in the first quarter when quarterback Michael Brewer bought himself time with his feet and then found Ford all alone for a 12-yard score.

“At the beginning of the game I was kind of nervous,” Ford said. “Actually when the ball first came to me I was kind of nervous. But after that I felt pretty comfortable.”

Fellow true freshman Cam Phillips reeled in two passes for 34 yards.

“They had fun, which is pretty important as freshmen your first time playing,” said Willie Byrn of Ford and Phillips. Byrn had three catches for 49 yards.

“They had been playing so well all camp that I didn’t think (the moment) was going to swallow them, that they were going to choke,” Bryn said. “I thought that they may have had some hiccups along the way, but when I first saw Cam come in and he was on my side, I’d always let him know the call and what it is and what he had, but he was just right there giving me a thumbs up like he already knew it.”

It was redshirt freshman tight end Bucky Hodges whose six catches led all receivers. The 6-foot-6 former quarterback used his unique skillset to take advantage of mismatches across the field.

On third-and-goal, after the Hokies started a drive on the William & Mary two-yard line, but couldn’t punch it in, Hodges came down with an eight-yard grab. Brewer’s lob to the back left corner of the South endzone was a little short and looked like it was going to be intercepted, but a defensive bobble and Hodges’ concentration secured the score.

The Tech offense, led by Brewer, who made very few poor decisions in his first start since high school, marched straight down the field on its opening possession, converted four times on third down, and scored a touchdown.

“It felt good, we were able to put some things together on that first drive. All it took was a couple plays and I felt like my old self,” Brewer said. “I felt like we got in a good rhythm and we were able to move the football.”

The Texas Tech graduate finished the afternoon 23-30 for 251 yards and two touchdowns as he spread the ball around to nine different receivers.

“That’s really important,” Isaiah Ford said about using multiple options in the passing game, “so they can’t key on one specific person. If everybody is getting the ball then everyone is getting open and doing his job.

Brewer’s one interception was one of a couple passes deflected at the line of scrimmage, something that because of his 6-foot frame and his low angled release may be a persisting issue.

On the other side of the ball, Tech’s defense made some adjustments during halftime, starting linebacker Chase Williams said, and it showed.

The Hokies allowed 128 yards in the first half, including a couple big plays. The Tribe finished with 193 total yards of offense.

“(William & Mary) came out and showed us some things that we hadn’t seen before on film,” Williams said. “They had some good guys that were in the backfield, but we made a couple adjustments and I feel like we came out in the second half and executed.”

Williams clobbered Tribe quarterback Steve Cluley, one of four Tech sacks on the day, midway through the second quarter to force a fumble. Derek DiNardo, who made the start at whip, picked up the loose ball and returned it 45 yards.  Forty seven yards would have meant paydirt, but the short field led to the Brewer-Hodges touchdown connection.

Yet another fresh face left a positive first impression on Frank Beamer and company. Place kicker Joey Slye was originally supposed to handle all long field goals, but found out Thursday he kicked well enough to earn all place kicking responsibilities.  He is the first placekicker to start as a freshman in Blacksburg since Carter Warley did it in 2000.

Slye connected from 20 and 27 yards when Tech drives stalled in the red zone and successfully converted all four extra points. He kicked off five of the seven times as well, splitting those duties with Mitchell Ludwig.

“The kick off, yeah there was a lot of nerves,” Slye said, but he put those to rest after making the tackle as well.

In total, nine of the 17 true freshmen that dressed played on Saturday.

While it’s tough to draw comparisons between William & Mary and Tech’s next opponent, Ohio State, the successful debut increased confidence heading into week two.

“It was a real game,” Hodges said. “We got to get a shot at Lane Stadium. William & Mary, they were still a good team and they fought to the end. I think it gives us some confidence going into Columbus, Ohio next week.”

Box Score (


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13 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. William & Mary’s good defense played a role in those impressive goal line stands. They seemed to anticipate that we would just hand off right into the middle … like last year.

  2. Lots of good signs, but still had trouble punching it in the EZ with two full sets of downs at the 2. Would have liked to see what McKenzie could have done in that situation.

  3. 12 is exactly as advertised, he’s not a superhero but he is a very good QB. I think he was a tad gun shy, but I think that will wear off. We have to remember, we haven’t had a QB like him since????? So were not used to a prototypical QB.
    22 and 42 will be the tandem, but there is a place for 4, he’s great once he hits the secondary.
    It was such a breath of fresh air to see so many options on the O side of the ball.
    But now its it time for the true test, OSU will give us everything we don’t want sat…let’s hope we show up.

    1. 4 needs to be on the sideline. Maybe returning kicks. Never seen him do anything that stands out.

  4. Coleman seems like a nice kid, he had his fair shot, but he should be the number 3 back at best, probably number 4.

  5. I wasn’t at the game but listened to it on the radio. I have never commented on any board but feel compelled to do so regarding JC Coleman’s play. I just didn’t hear anything to make me comfortable with him playing running back for the Hokies. He is too small to be effective in short yardage territory….what was Shane thinking using him in the short yardage goal line series? I feel certain we left 4points on the field there as either of our freshmen backs would have pounded the ball over the goal line.

    1. There is definitely a place for JCC in the running game- just not between the tackles where there are multiple defenders (and I think that resolved itself today with MW and SM- our new thunder and lightning).

      In terms of the goal line runs- we have no power back yet. MW tried two consecutive runs and got pushed back both times. When JCC scored, I don’t think it was up the middle- I think he ran in from the side, away from the tackles (if I can remember correctly).

      1. I respectfully disagree. It looks like JC put on some weight in the offseason, but he still wasn’t nearly as effective as Williams or McKenzie between the tackles. The extra weight seemed to make him a bit slower too, as he tried to run to the outside on a couple of plays and didn’t have the speed to make the corner, nor does he have the agility or shiftiness to make tacklers miss in the hole.

        His mediocre stat line, the lost fumble, and failing the eyeball test…..I think JC is the 4th best back (at most) on this team once Edmunds is healthy.

        1. JC is a change of pace back that we have been trying to use as an every down back. He needs to be deployed in a different way. Third and long, plays designed to get him in the open field, catching balls out of the backfield, kick-returning, etc. However, based on what I saw yesterday, we may go a lot of empty backfield on third and long.

          Some of the things JC does well, like catching the ball, are things I don’t think Shai and Marshawn are going to bring to the table.

          1. Trey catches the ball well out of the backfield too, is faster than JCC and is tougher to tackle. Like most people on the board, I think there is a way to use Coleman. However, not as the starter, every down, between the tackles kind of RB. Let the other guys beat up the D first and then give it to him on different types of runs to the outside. JCC with fresh legs against a worn D could be a useful weapon.

  6. Pretty interesting display on offense. Glad to see the defense adjusted. Next week there going to have to play their hearts out, honestly think it could be a big night!

  7. Anyone know why PK Santamaria did not play? And if Trey Edmunds is hurt, why is he playing special teams? Will Shane decide to sit Coleman in favor of Williams and Mckenzie, please? It’s a no brainer IMHO.

    Glad to see the D come alive and dominate in the second half. Just love the 2 TE set and the many good hands in the receiving corps. Brewer delivered as promised and looked poised and definitely seemed to get into a rhythm as the game progressed.

    It was only W&M but there were some questions answered. For one, last year’s O would not have put up close to 500 yds.

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