The Virginia Tech Hokies head on the road for the second-straight week as they travel to Greenville, North Carolina to take on the East Carolina Pirates. Revenge will be on the mind for the Hokies after last year’s loss in Blacksburg the week after the big win over Ohio State.
Gameday has arrived so it is time to take a look at our keys to the game.
Run the Football Early and Often
Through the first three weeks of the season, East Carolina is 121st in the nation in rushing yards allowed per game out of 127 teams in the nation. Both Towson and especially Navy were able to do damage on the ground against the Pirates, and the Hokies can help themselves by replicating that today.
The Hokies have the mobile Brenden Motley at quarterback, and should look to run some read option against an ECU defense that struggled with Navy’s triple-option attack. There are some significant differences between the read option and triple option, but ECU has shown some defensive discipline concerns, and the read option can take advantage of that.
East Carolina is also not as good on the defensive line this year while the Hokies have their best offensive line in years led by left guard Wyatt Teller and left tackle Jonathan McLaughlin. The Hokies have the playmakers in the backfield with guys like J.C. Coleman, Trey Edmunds, Travon McMillian, and Sam Rogers to do plenty of damage.
Virginia Tech’s offense has improved a lot this season, and will be ready for going on the road to East Carolina. Don’t be surprised if at least one of Coleman, Edmunds, and McMillian has a big game in Greenville.
Force ECU To Throw the Football
Teams facing the Hokies have struggled to throw the football effectively with opponents only completing 39.5% of passes so far this season, by far the best in the nation. Meanwhile, the Hokies rush defense has given up some big plays, and had some struggles mostly against Ohio State which caused the Hokies average yards per carry allowed to be a poor 6.0.
Now the Hokies’ rush defense is much better than that, but it’s time for them to prove that again today.
ECU’s top running back Chris Hairston had a big game against Towson, but has struggled against FBS competition with 27 carries for an atrocious 53 rushing yards. However, East Carolina does have a fair amount of experience on the offensive line and will look to establish some sort of rushing attack against the Hokies.
It is weird to say that the Hokies should force East Carolina to throw the football when the Pirates have traditionally been a pass-heavy offense, but that is exactly what they need to do. The Hokies have a chance to make a statement with their rush defense while setting up their dominant pass defense to force some turnovers.
ECU isn’t the same pass-heavy juggernaut that they were with Shane Carden, and the Hokies should be ready to contain a spread rushing attack.
Keep Your Emotions Under Control
The Hokies will likely come in with a chip on their shoulder looking for some revenge. However, the Hokies will need to their heads on straight to avoid making stupid mistakes while also playing disciplined football on offense in front of what is likely to be a raucous crowd despite the weather.
East Carolina fans see this as their big game with the game being in Greenville and the Pirates will be looking to take advantage of their second chance to get a big win over a power 5 conference team. Brenden Motley will have to keep his composure in front of a stadium that will be significantly louder than Ross-Ade Stadium last week.
The Hokies will want revenge, but they also have to keep their discipline and avoid stupid penalties that let Purdue hang around for a quarter too long last week. East Carolina may be about as good as Purdue, but the Pirates will be ready to take advantage of any penalty that the Hokies have this week.
Virginia Tech must keep their emotions under their control with the desire for revenge likely high after last year’s surprising loss.