A week after seeing its offense sputter in the Georgia Dome, Virginia Tech took a nice step forward by putting up 45 points in its first victory of the season over Western Carolina.
The result was never in question as the defense provided an early spark with its first interception for a touchdown in nearly three years. After proving to be quite ineffective in the season-opener against Alabama, the passing game found its rhythm during several methodical drives by the Hokies offense.
Here's the breakdown of how they were able to win their home-opener for the third straight season.
WHY VIRGINIA TECH WON It's no secret that offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler likes to run the football. The Hokies gained 237 yards on the ground, the most since a 269-yard performance on Oct. 13 against Duke last season. While chewing up chunks of yards on each rush (7 yards per rush), Virginia Tech was able to get rushing scores from three different players (Trey Edmunds with two, Chris Mangus with one and Joel Caleb with one). For an area that was a struggle for the most part in 2012, it's nice to see a big improvement in being able to pound the ball.
After registering only seven first downs against Alabama, Virginia Tech was able to register 24 in the victory over the Catamounts. The Hokies were able to put together multiple long drives: there were five drives of 45 yards or more. A significant improvement was also seen on third downs, where Virginia Tech was able to convert on 7-of-13 tries.
The defense was yet again nearly unstoppable as the unit allowed just 162 yards of offense, including 51 yards of passing. They produced three interceptions, eight punts, and one field goal after allowing -1 yards following a VT fumble. If there's a recipe to beat this Hokie defense, nobody has figured out the right ingredients yet.
WHY WESTERN CAROLINA LOST Completing four passes and averaging 2.8 yards a rush won't likely get you many victories over the course of a season. But the Catamounts' offense was inept all day as it produced just two drives over four plays of the 14 times it had the ball. Turning it over three times certainly won't help.
The Western Carolina defense didn't help out the offense much by allowing 6.7 yards per play against the Virginia Tech offense. The unit forced just three punts, and the score could have been much worse had they not forced three turnovers. Without being able to stop the Hokie rushing attack, the Catamounts couldn't gain momentum in any way over the 60 minutes played at Lane Stadium.
NUMBERS THAT DON'T MAKE SENSE WITH THE RESULT There's not too much that sticks out considering Virginia Tech dominated in almost every aspect of the game, and rightfully so. However, the Hokies weren't able to milk the clock on numerous possessions, resulting in a 30:26-29:34 advantage for the Catamounts in terms of possession time. In close games, Virginia Tech will need to be able to control the clock with sustained drives.
When senior quarterback Logan Thomas throws multiple interceptions, it usually combines for a defeat. But Thomas' two interceptions didn't hurt the Hokies in any fashion as he improved to 4-6 when he throws at least two picks in a contest.
WHAT VIRGINIA TECH COULD IMPROVE UPON Following a brutal performance against Alabama, the Virginia Tech passing attack showed signs of life, but 225 yards won't get it done against the better teams of the ACC. Thomas has a completion percentage of just 38.6% through two games, and this number needs to climb if the Hokies are to put together a solid win streak.
Loeffler made it clear that he wants to convert in the "red area" this season, but his offense is currently sitting at a modest 57% success rate (4-of-7) in terms of scoring touchdowns when reaching the red-zone. There have been little kinks in the system as the group nears the goal line and it will be important to find a go-to receiver down the road if the Hokies want to consistently score inside the 20 yard-line.
The punt return game still needs to make adjustments as well. Virginia Tech was able to gain just 21 yards on 6 returns, and Kyshoen Jarrett also muffed one to set up Western Carolina's three points. After breaking numerous big plays in this area over the past several years, the Hokies will need to do better than a long of 13 yards in order to provide the offense with an easy starting position in close battles.
VIRGINIA TECH TRENDS Thomas threw an interception for the third straight game dating back to last season, which is the third occurrence in his three-year career at Virginia Tech. After stating his goal of five interceptions over the course of the season, it will be awfully difficult to keep that goal in tact by the middle of the season, much less the full year.
Edmunds found the end zone for the second consecutive game, and already has 200 yards on the ground this season. It's only a matter of time before he eclipses the 492 yards that the leading running back (Coleman) had in 2012. He's only one touchdown behind Michael Holmes for the most by a running back last year (four), and became the first back to get to the end zone in consecutive games since Holmes on Sept. 22 and 29 of last season.
Going back to 2012, the Hokie defense hasn't allowed more than 300 yards of offense since allowing 311 in a loss to Florida State on Nov. 8. Over the five-game span since, Virginia Tech has given up an average of just 215.4 yards of offense. If they're able to somehow continue at this pace, there will be no question that the unit will be among the best in the country throughout the season.