Spunky Austin Peay loses to No. 15 Virginia Tech
BLACKSBURG, Va.—Austin Peay knew playing at No. 15 Virginia Tech was a tall order, and somehow the Governors came away feeling good about their performance despite a lopsided final score.
Given little chance of replicating the upset fellow FCS member James Madison handed the Hokies two years ago, the Governors hung around early with some gritty defense before falling prey to that old Virginia Tech tradition: momentum-seizing special teams play.
The Hokies (2-0) had a 46-yard punt return and blocked a punt to set up their first two touchdowns, overcoming a slow start for a 42-7 win Saturday.
"We knew coming in we had to do everything right," Austin Peay coach Rick Christophel said. "When you don't do things right on special teams and you give up some big plays, you're going to have some problems."
Still, he was happy with the way his team performed on the big stage.
"We really, really played hard," Christophel said. "I told them after the game I was as proud of them as any team here at Austin Peay because of the way that we fought all the way to the end."
Governors defensive end Earnest Smith said there was nothing mysterious about how the team kept it close for a half.
"The defense, we just attacked, we played physical," he said.
The Hokies were impressed.
"I think they were a lot better than I thought," said Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler. "It's college football. Everyone's good. You can't take a week off."
Said Hokies coach Frank Beamer: "I compliment Austin Peay. They came in here and their guys played hard and played to the end."
Virginia Tech was playing its second game in less than a week -- the same scenario as in 2010, when the Hokies were shocked by James Madison -- and it showed.
"It is just a hard week and was just a tough game against Georgia Tech," said Beamer, who added that he condensed the team's practices after the season-opening overtime win. "We tried to get our health back and it is just not easy playing two football games that quickly."
Tyler said the Hokies were still feeling the effects of Monday night's game.
"Our bodies are a little banged up with the short week," he said.
But it wasn't Tyler and his defensive mates who had to shake the cobwebs, it was the offense. The Hokies couldn't get much going early -- but neither could the Governors (0-2).
It took the big plays in the punting game to set up touchdown runs of 2 yards by Michael Holmes and 1 yard by quarterback Logan Thomas. Then the offense came to life, putting together touchdown drives of 71 and 80 yards on their next two possessions to take control.
The Governors had offensive struggles of their own, but they did put together an impressive six-play, 78-yard drive in the third quarter to extend their string of consecutive games without being shut out to 75. Wesley Kitts had a 32-yard run on the drive to go over 100 yards for the second consecutive week -- he finished with 110 yards on 22 carries -- and Terrence Oliver scored on an 8-yard run.
Virginia Tech promptly reasserted control, though, with a 72-yard drive capped by Thomas' 13-yard pass to Randall Dunn to make it 35-7, and by late in the third period Thomas was done for the day. He finished 15 of 23 for 212 yards.
The Hokies undoubtedly would have liked to get more out of their running game against an overmatched opponent. The Hokies are looking for someone to replace first-round draft pick David Wilson, but the duo of J.C. Coleman and Michael Holmes couldn't find much running room against the Governors -- especially early. Holmes finished with 40 yards, Coleman with 29.
The 260-pound Thomas usually is one of the Hokies' biggest rushing threats, but that wasn't the case Saturday as Virginia Tech focused on trying to get the tailbacks going. They fared a little better late, as the Governors began to wear down against the bigger and deeper Hokies, who finished with 419 total yards, 187 on the ground.
Thomas threw a 30-yard TD pass to Corey Fuller, and Tony Gregory had an 18-yard touchdown run for the Hokies.
After completing just 2 of 10 passes for 11 yards in the season opener, Austin Peay quarterback Jake Ryan fared only marginally better against the Hokies. He finished 8 of 21 for 62 yards and was intercepted twice, including a pick in the end zone by Kyle Fuller.
The Governors finished with 221 total yards.