The Virginia Tech Hokies have had their fair share of issues with the East Carolina Pirates over the past two years but tomorrow, the Hokies will be looking to end their two-game losing streak against ECU and get to 3-1 ahead of a critical October for the Hokies’ ACC hopes.
Here’s a look at three keys to the game for the Hokies against East Carolina.
Don’t Give ECU Extra Chances
Last week, the Hokies only had one turnover that very much came off of an unlucky drop by Isaiah Ford that was deflected to a Boston College defender. The Hokies also had no fumbles against Boston College but after having 10 fumbles in the first two games, it will be critical for the Hokies to once again do a great job of protecting the football as they did against the Eagles.
East Carolina has a very good passing attack led by QB Philip Nelson who has a 78.9% completion rate and has almost 1,100 passing yards in his first three games. Nelson also has plenty of talented receivers around him led by Zay Jones who had 22 catches against South Carolina plus a rushing attack that is averaging over 5 yards per carry.
For the Hokies, it is critical that they do not give East Carolina extra chances and send the defense out there on limited rest. As we saw against Tennessee, even a talented defense needs some time to catch their breath as turnovers led to too many snaps for the defense and easy opportunities that Tennessee took advantage of.
If the Hokies can protect the football as well as they did against Boston College, the Hokies should be in great position to get a comfortable victory but if this game goes more like two weeks ago, ECU will be ready to pounce.
Be Aggressive Defensively
There has been some talk about whether the Hokies should give ECU playmakers like Zay Jones some room on Saturday to try to prevent the big play over the top. While that type of strategy sounds great in theory, actually trying to do that could very easily be a recipe for disaster.
Bud Foster’s defense has been built on taking risks and playing aggressive, and while that can lead to a couple big plays for opponents, that style has been proven time and time again to shut down some very talented playmakers.
So far this season, Virginia Tech has shown that there is tons of talent in the secondary with both Brandon Facyson and Adonis Alexander looking great in coverage on the outside and nickelwhip Mook Reynolds playing quite well in man coverage against slot receivers. For the Hokies, they must continue to play this aggressive defensive style even against an ECU team that has plenty of weapons.
However, no one should expect Foster to go against his style and play cautious. Hokie fans should expect some zone coverage but also plenty of blitzes with Foster trusting his cornerbacks in man coverage along with giving them some safety help over the top from Chuck Clark, Terrell Edmunds, or both.
Don’t Overlook ECU
Time and time again this week, the coaches and players have said that the Hokies will not overlook an ECU program that they say is a big time program along with saying that it is well-respected by the Hokies. Virginia Tech has also come off of big wins the last two years before these games, and then found a way to come out flat and lose to the Pirates.
For the Hokies, it will be critical for them to actually follow through on what they have said and not only not come out flat after a big win but also not overlook the Pirates.
Virginia Tech is double-digit favorites in Vegas against the Pirates and it won’t be hard for the Hokies to see on Twitter or wherever that this team is heavily favored. However, the Hokies have to avoid overlooking an ECU team that the oddsmakers in Vegas seem to be overlooking an ECU team with a strong offense.
Now I don’t expect the Hokies to come out flat in this matchup but Justin Fuente and his staff must continue to put an emphasis on coming out strong this week knowing that they are facing an ECU team that can definitely pull off the upset.