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Virginia Tech overcomes slow start to send away Arkansas State

BLACKSBURG, Va. -- Arkansas State could not have started its game at Virginia Tech any better.

The Red Wolves' defense stopped the 13th-ranked Hokies on five plays after the opening kickoff Saturday, then needed only three plays of its own to cover 59 yards and grab a confidence-building 7-0 lead. Another defensive stand, albeit at their own 1 yard-line, gave the Red Wolves more confidence

And that was it. Two plays after getting the ball back at the 1, quarterback Ryan Aplin was called for intentional grounding in the end zone for a safety.

"I think that safety was a big momentum change," Red Wolves coach Hugh Freeze said.

The Hokies scored touchdowns on three of their next four possessions to lead 23-7 by halftime. Aplin and his offense threatened to score just one other time, at the end of the first half when Brian Davis was wide right on a 30-yard field-goal attempt.

The Hokies won 26-7, and the outcome never seemed in doubt.

Arkansas State (1-2) came in averaging 480 yards but managed little after a 51-yard pass on its first offensive play helped set up its only score. The Red Wolves finished with 269 yards, ending their string of 14 consecutive games with at least 300.

Briefly, things looked good. Aplin hit Taylor Stockemer with the long pass to the Hokies' 8 yard-line and two runs by Aplin made it 7-0.

The long pass play proved to be something of an aberration as the Hokies' defense, ranked eighth nationally, stiffened and made it difficult for Aplin to get anything going.

"They did exactly what we see on film," he said. "We just didn't get the job done."

He did, however, earn the respect of the Hokies.

"He seemed like a guy that was very poised," said cornerback Kyle Fuller, who got credit for the safety. "But it's not about them. It's about us and that's how we played it all game."

They also rode the arm of Logan Thomas, who threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns.

Thomas hit D.J. Coles with a short pass that Coles took 49 yards for a touchdown and found Danny Coale from 4 yards out as the Hokies improved to 3-0 for the first time since 2006. Thomas was 21 for 33 and also threw two interceptions.

Aplin was 16 for 36 for 205 yards and was sacked three times.

The Hokies' offense struggled from the start.

After Thomas hit Jarrett Boykin for 10 yards on the first play from scrimmage, Thomas fumbled the snap on the next play. A 2-yard run and near interception forced a punt, and Scott Demler shanked it out of bounds to the left, a 22-yard kick.

Worse, receiver and kick returner Dyrell Roberts broke his left arm returning the opening kickoff but could choose to take a redshirt year and come back next season if he chooses.

On their next possession, the Hokies drove 83 yards, with Thomas running for 16 yards and then hitting Coale for 52, but couldn't punch it in after a first-and-goal at the 7.

On fourth down, Thomas' flip to fullback Martin Scales was underthrown and bobbled.

Two plays later, under pressure in the end zone, Aplin threw the ball away. He was called for intentional grounding, giving Virginia Tech the safety. Five plays later, Thomas' swing pass that Coles took for a touchdown made it 9-7, and his 4-yarder to Coale -- after also hitting Coale for 44 yards earlier in the drive -- made it 16-7 before the end of the first quarter.

Coale caught five passes for 112 yards in the first quarter.

David Wilson added the Hokies' final touchdown on a 3-yard run in the second quarter, and Cody Journell kicked a 31-yard field goal and missed from 40 yards for the Hokies.