Alabama vs. Virginia Tech: 10 Things We Learned from Tide's Win
Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
It certainly wasn’t pretty, but the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide used a dominant effort from its defense and special teams’ units to pull away from Virginia Tech in a 35-10 victory in the Chick-fil-A Kickoff Classic.
The brilliant play of junior receiver Christion Jones masked an average performance from the Tide’s offense.
Meanwhile, Virginia Tech’s new-look offense sputtered from to start to finish against Nick Saban’s defense.
What are the main takeaways from the matchup between Alabama and Virginia Tech?
10. Logan Thomas Needs Help
There’s been plenty of criticism hurled at Hokies quarterback Logan Thomas, with most of it deserved after a subpar 2012 season.
Considering his receiver unit consistently let him down with drops and poor route-running, Thomas’s abysmal stats against Alabama are misleading.
While Thomas missed his share of throws, he was constantly running for his life against a Tide unit that is among the nation’s best. If Virginia Tech hopes to make some noise in the ACC, the Hokies' pass-catching unit will have to make significant strides over the course of the season.
9. Tide’s New-Look OL Struggles
Alabama’s offensive line looked like a unit trying to replace three starters who were drafted into the NFL.
The Hokies defensive line soundly outplayed the Tide’s offensive line. It wasn’t just the newcomers, either. Case in point, All-American left tackle Cyrus Kouandjio was called for two holding penalties in the first half.
Alabama has all the talent necessary to field one of the nation’s top offenses, but until the line comes around, this unit will struggle to match the consistency of last year’s attack.
8. Hokies Defense Stands Tall
Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster has consistently proven to be one of the nation’s top defensive minds. His unit’s effort against the top-ranked Tide is another indicator of his prowess as a defensive coordinator.
His defensive line, led by defensive tackle Luther Maddy, consistently got the better of the matchup with Alabama’s offensive line.
Additionally, secondary standouts such as Kyle Fuller and Kyshoen Jarrett had strong games against the defending national champions.
Regardless of what happens with the offense, the Hokies defense proved that it has the talent to be one of the top units in the ACC.
7. Tide's Playmakers Silenced
While much of Alabama’s offensive struggles had to do with it’s poor showing in the trenches, All-American candidates such as quarterback AJ McCarron, running back T.J. Yeldon and receiver Amari Cooper didn’t exactly light the world on fire.
McCarron threw an uncharacteristic interception off his back foot in the second quarter. Aside from a 27-yard scamper in the third quarter, Yeldon consistently struggled to bust loose.
Cooper had a few drops and was held just 38 yards receiving. To put the offense’s day in proper perspective, the Tide’s defense and special teams combined for three touchdowns, in comparison to just two scores that the offense was able to muster.
The Tide's 206 yards of total offense against the Hokies was 99 yards lower than 2012’s lowest offensive output.
All in all, it was a lethargic day for the Tide’s offense.
6. Tide Special Teams Buries Beamer Ball
The rise of the Virginia Tech program was due, in part, because of how prolific Frank Beamer’s special teams units were during its years of dominance in the Big East and at beginning of its tenure in the ACC.
However, with so many young players on this year’s club, their relative inexperience showed on special teams against the Tide, especially in the first half.
Two long returns by Alabama wideout Christion Jones effectively squashed any chances the Hokies had to stay in the game.
5. Tide Defense Sound, but Still Room for Improvement
A glance at most of the relevant statistics will show that the Tide’s defense was dominant against the Hokies
However, a closer look would show that the defense still has its share of issues to work on before they head into the SEC portion of the schedule.
Alabama allowed nearly five yards per carry, and let Hokies running back Trey Edmunds pile up 132 yards on the ground.
Additionally, Thomas just missed a sure touchdown pass on a deep ball against corner John Fulton in the second quarter, and had several passes dropped throughout the game.
While they had a lot of strong moments, such as Vinnie Sunseri’s 38-yard pick-six in the second quarter, there’s still plenty of room for improvement before the trek to Kyle Field.
4. Trey Edmunds Steps Up
Virginia Tech entered the matchup with Alabama with a banged up group of running backs. Veterans Tony Gregory and J.C. Coleman didn’t make the trip to Atlanta, but redshirt freshman Trey Edmunds answered the call for the Hokies offense.
Edmunds had 20 carries for 132 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown run one play after the Tide went up 14-0. While he didn’t break any more long runs for the rest of the game, he consistently ran hard and with a purpose.
On a day when Virginia Tech struggled to find a playmaker on offense, Edmunds provided a spark and made a strong case to become the long-term starter at running back for the rest of the season.
3. Tide Has Plenty of Work to Do
Alabama entered the season as an overwhelming favorite to capture its third consecutive BCS title.
While a 25-point victory in its season-opener is a solid start to the 2013 season, there are plenty of concerns as the Tide prepares to enter conference play.
The season-opener did little to quell the concerns about the offensive line and the situation at corner. Getting suspended starting nickel corner Geno Smith back will help, but the defense will get a better idea of where it stands after the showdown with Aggies in two weeks.
2. Hokies' Future Is Bright
While this game turned into the blowout most observers expected it to become, Virginia Tech’s effort has to give Hokies fans hope that they can rebound to make a run at the program’s first ACC title since 2010.
The offense is clearly a work in progress, but they will not face another team remaining on the schedule that comes close to matching Alabama’s talent level.
If Scot Leoffler can find some answers at receiver, this is a club that can challenge for the ACC’s Coastal Division.
1. Christion Jones Is Special
Considering the preseason hype around sophomore Amari Cooper, and the return of veterans such as Kenny Bell and Kevin Norwood, junior receiver Christion Jones entered 2013 almost as a forgotten man of sorts.
With his first touch of the season, he quickly announced his presence as one of the Tide’s biggest playmakers. Jones weaved through the Hokies punt coverage team for a 72-yard touchdown. He would go on to add a 92-yard kickoff return for a touchdown and haul in a 38-yard scoring strike from McCarron.
Jones amassed 256 yards of total offense on eight touches, and gave the Tide a much-needed shot of adrenaline in the process.
After delivering the best performance of his career, Jones proved that he is capable of stepping up and providing the Tide with another reliable weapon to pair with Cooper.