ATLANTA -- Make no mistake, Alabama's offense and defense are among the best in the country. But, contrary to pre-game belief neither one overwhelmed Virginia Tech.
Instead, it was a combination of great Crimson Tide special teams and Hokies mistakes that loomed largest. An inept Virginia Tech passing game did its part, as well.
Junior Christion Jones had a monster night, returning a punt return and kick return for touchdowns and hauling in a 38-yard touchdown catch as Alabama routed the Hokies 35-10 in the Chick-fil-a Kickoff, both teams' season-openers. It's the first time a player has had two returns for touchdown in the same game in Alabama history.
Jones took full advantage of a game in which Virginia Tech had its share of miscues and in which Beamerball looks more and more like a thing of the past.
"When you start playing young kids, that's where you're going to notice it the quickest," coach Frank Beamer said. "We had a bunch of new guys out there on kickoff return, kickoff coverage, new guys on punt coverage. But that's not an excuse. I mean, we've just gotta play better."
For Virginia Tech, redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds had a big first career start and collegiate game, with 132 yards on 20 carries. That included a 77-yard touchdown run in the first quarter. But for as good as Edmunds was, senior quarterback Logan Thomas was equally as disappointing. With little help and numerous drops from his receivers, Thomas completed just five of 26 passes for 59 yards and an interception.
That inefficiency, as well as the mistakes came back to bite the Hokies and early.
The Crimson Tide jumped on the scoreboard before their offense even took the field. Following a three-and-out by Virginia Tech on its opening drive, poor special teams coverage led to a 72-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jones that gave Alabama a 7-0 lead just 1:39 into the game.
Once the Hokies' defense finally took the field, it held its ground. But on the ensuing drive, after starting the drive on Virginia Tech's 49 yard-line, the Crimson Tide added to their lead with an 11-play drive that ended in a two-yard touchdown rush by sophomore running back T.J. Yeldon. Just like that, the Hokies were looking up at a 14-0 deficit.
One of the biggest stories with Virginia Tech heading into the game was the question at running back. Injuries, a suspension and a dismissal led to Edmunds being the starter almost by default.
Edmunds quickly silenced many of his critics on the following drive. On the first play, Edmunds went inside and darted left, racing down the sideline 77 yards for a touchdown that cut the lead to 14-7 with 1:37 left in the first quarter.
"Alabama's defense speaks for itself," Edmunds said. "Me being able to run behind them and score was amazing."
The Hokies' defense really ratcheted up the intensity by forcing an ensuing three-and-out by Alabama. Another Virginia Tech mistake, though, quickly let the Tide back in the game. Vinnie Sunseri picked off Thomas on the first play of the next drive, returning it 38 yards for a touchdown and a 21-7 lead with 14:04 left in the second quarter.
The Hokies got some momentum back on an interception by senior cornerback Kyle Fuller, who returned the ball to the Alabama 34 yard-line. But all Virginia Tech could muster was a 39-yard field goal by Cody Journell with 3:39 left.
The only bad thing was, the Tide's Jones got another chance with the ball in his hands.
Jones made yet another return for a touchdown, this one more impressive than the first. After running into a pile on the left sideline, he bounced outside and ran the rest of the way, 94 yards in all for a touchdown and a commanding 28-10 lead just 3:25 before halftime.
In the second half, the Hokies' defense was stout on Alabama's first three drives, but the offense didn't do much to help out. In three drives, Virginia Tech picked up just one first down, with four plays, three plays and three plays.
The Crimson Tide capitalized on a tiring Hokies defense after starting their fourth drive of the half on the Hokies' 47 yard-line. Four plays later, Jones struck again, this time, hauling in a 38-yard touchdown pass just before the end zone on the left side. The extra point gave Alabama a commanding 35-10 lead with 3:43 left in the third quarter.
In the fourth quarter Virginia Tech's offense again couldn't get anything going three and out on their first two full drives of the quarter.
"I think we played really well overall," freshman Kendall Fuller said. "We really prepped and trained hard throughout the pre-season and I think it showed tonight. It was a great performance by our defense, but we still have lots of little things to work on. We still have 13 games left to do it."
The Hokies are now 0-8 against top-ranked teams. They'll try to bounce back in their home-opener, next Saturday against Western Carolina.