Coming off a rather impressive season- ranked Virginia Tech Hokies take to the road for the first time in 2011 when they battle the East Carolina Pirates in Greenville this weekend.
Frank Beamer's 25th year at the helm in Blacksburg got off to a rousing start, as Virginia Tech made light work of FCS power Appalachian State, 66-13. With the victory, Beamer collected his 199th win at Virginia Tech. He will attempt to become the ninth FBS coach to reach the 200-win plateau at one school this week.
Standing in the way are Ruffin McNeill's Pirates. East Carolina finished 6-7 in McNeill's first season with the team in 2010. The 2011 campaign has not gotten off on the right foot, with ECU dropping the season-opener on the road against nationally-ranked South Carolina, 56-37. Despite the outcome, McNeill was pleased with some areas of his team's performance.
"I think there were some positives that came out of the game. I know the score didn't indicate that because we were on the tail end, but I was pleased with some positives. It was a learning experience we as a staff and football team can develop and grow from."
Virginia Tech leads the all-time series by a count of 11-5 and has claimed victory in eight of the last nine meetings, including a 49-27 win in Blacksburg last season.
The new-look Hokies got off to a fast start offensively, as the team rolled up 518 yards of total offense and 66 points on the Mountaineers. Junior tailback David Wilson didn't disappoint as he is now the workhorse for the Tech ground attack. Wilson amassed 162 yards and three TDs against Appalachian State, on a hefty 10.1 yards per carry. In all, Tech rolled up 256 rushing yards.
Wilson was pleased with his performance against Appalachian State.
"I got out there and ran every play to the best of my ability. There were a couple of plays that I wish I could get back. But for the most part, I had a real good game."
New QB Logan Thomas had a quiet performance, but effective, throwing for 149 yards and two TDs on just nine completions. A deep receiving corps will certainly play a big part in Virginia Tech's success this season and 6-4 junior Marcus Davis has a great deal of hype surrounding him. He showed his big play ability in the opener, catching three balls, taking them for 140 yards and two TDs. Veterans like Jarrett Boykin, Dyrell Roberts and Danny Coale will factor in as well.
Defensively, the Hokies got off to a fast start, limiting the Mountaineers to just 11 first downs and 293 yards of total offense. In addition, Tech forced four turnovers, including three INTs.
The strength of the unit is in the back seven, highlighted by LBs Bruce Taylor and Barquell Rivers and All-American CB Jayron Hosley.
The Pirates did some nice things offensively against a very good South Carolina team in the season-opener, especially through the air. Veteran signal-caller Dominique Davis threw for 260 yards and four TDs in the loss, with his primary targets being Lance Lewis (13 receptions, for 108 yards and two TDs) and Justin Hardy (11 receptions, 91 yards, one TD). One-dimensional in the opener, ECU managed a mere 85 yards rushing, paced by Reggie Bullock's 67 yards.
One of the better QBs in Conference USA, Davis is the driving force behind ECU's spread offense.
While there were plenty of positives to take from the offensive play against the Gamecocks, there weren't many on the defensive side of the football. East Carolina was torched by a potent USC ground attack, allowing a whopping 220 yards on 5.5 yards per carry.
Junior LB Daniel Drake led the defense with 14 tackles in the loss. Freshman LB Jeremy Grove was active as well, finishing with 12 stops.
McNeill has a great deal of respect for Beamer and what he has built in Blacksburg.
"They'll have some really outstanding players on special teams, offense and defense. They'll have a chance to win the Atlantic Coast Conference, go to a BCS game and compete for the national championship."
The Hokies should be able to limit ECU's effectiveness on offense with a productive ground game. Wilson should continue his success against a Pirate run defense that showed itself vulnerable in the season-opener.