ATLANTA — Rolando McClain drew a pair of post-whistle flags on one play in the second quarter.
The middle linebacker drew flags for a personal foul and an unsportsmanlike conduct following a play that lost 14 yards on a bad pitch.
Instead, the Hokies got the ball at the 4-yard line and scored a few plays later.
McClain was one of three captains for Alabama, along with cornerback Javier Arenas and offensive lineman Mike Johnson.
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Alabama had nine players making their first start in a Crimson Tide uniform against Virginia Tech.
On defense, linebacker Eryk Anders, defensive back Mark Barron and defensive lineman Marcell Dareus recorded start No.1.
The offensive first-timers were left tackle James Carpenter, center William Vlachos, right guard Barrett Jones, senior tight end Colin Peek, sophomore H-back Brad Smelley and junior quarterback Greg McElroy who lined up at receiver on the first play from scrimmage.
Dyrell Roberts helped Virginia Tech live up to its reputation as the premier special teams program in the nation.
His 98-yard kickoff return in the second quarter gave Virginia Tech a 7-6 lead and the Hokies 72 non-offensive touchdown since 1999.
It was also the fifth-longest return in Virginia Tech history.
Saturday’s game sold out during the summer, with both schools swallowing their equal allotment of tickets several months ago.
That was before both teams landed in the top 10 of nearly every preseason poll, so the demand for seats never subsided.
The average price of a ticket on stubhub.com was $256.