Following a hard-fought victory at East ranked Virginia Tech Hokies return to the conference action on Saturday.
After putting up 66 points in the season-opener against Appalachian State, Tech's offense struggled a bit in Greenville. Still, a 17-10 victory over ECU kept the Hokies undefeated on the young season and gave 25-year head coach Frank Beamer his 200th victory at the school, making him just the 10th coach at the FBS level to amass 200 wins with one program.
Beamer is certainly appreciative of the loyalty Tech has shown him over the years.
"I've said all along I'm a fortunate guy. I've had a lot of good people around me, and it's a good school, and they hung with me when things weren't so good. I know how blessed I am, so I feel great about that."
Hugh Freeze got his first win as head coach of Arkansas State, thanks to the Red Wolves' 47-3 pasting of Memphis last weekend in Jonesboro. The victory came after a disappointing start to the season, a 33-15 setback at Illinois.
These two teams have faced off three prior times with all three games coming in Blacksburg. The Hokies have won all three previous matchups by a combined score of 147-14. The last meeting came in 2002, a 63-7 rout in the Hispanic College Fund Classic.
The Red Wolves didn't make much of a dent on the scoreboard against Illinois, but did put up 350 yards of offense nonetheless. This past weekend however, the Red Wolves erupted on the offensive side of the ball, amassing a whopping 611 yards, leading to 47 points. It marked the first time the team has eclipsed the 600-yard mark in a game since 1984.
There were plenty of offensive stars against the Tigers, starting with junior QB Ryan Aplin, who completed an efficient 19-of-21 passes, for 274 yards and three TDs. Junior WR Josh Jarboe was responsible for a good portion of that production, hauling in seven passes, for 162 yards and two scores. Freshman tailback Frankie Johnson added 101 yards and a TD on the ground to balance things out.
Despite the success, Freeze remains cautiously optimistic.
"Obviously we are thrilled to get the win. Any win is a good one, particularly when you are playing in a rivalry game that means so much to our fans and our university. But we'll keep it in perspective, it's one win in a 12-game schedule."
After two games, Aplin has completed an impressive 73.6 percent of his passes, for 564 yards. Jarboe (12 catches, for 220 yards, two TDs) and Dwayne Frampton (11 catches, for 174 yards, one TD) have been the primary targets downfield.
It was a nice rebound game on the defensive side of the ball for ASU, as the Red Wolves tightened things up after the season-opener in Champaign, limiting the Tigers to a meager 169 yards of total offense, including just 87 through the air. The defense brought constant pressure, recording 10 TFLs and five sacks in the game. Senior defensive back A.J. Hills led the charge with nine total stops and has a team-high 16 tackles on the season.
Against Illinois, ASU allowed 202 yards rushing and another 271 passing, so having success this past weekend could be a hugh confidence boost going forward.
Confidence will be a must in Blacksburg, as ASU's defense will be taken to task by the Hokies. Despite a less than stellar performance against the Pirates, Tech's offense has the ability to run an opponent right out of the stadium. The Hokies were able to keep ECU at arm's length thanks to 241 yards rushing, including 138 yards from star tailback David Wilson. Now the top guy in the backfield for Virginia Tech, the 5-10, 210-pound junior has dominated in the first two games of the season, rushing for 299 yards and three TDs.
The ground assault has certainly helped sophomore Logan Thomas get comfortable under center. He didn't exactly light up the sky against the Pirates, but with a talented receiving corps that includes Jarrett Boykin, Marcus Davis, Danny Coale and others, the Hokies may be able to find a little more balance at times with a vertical game. Boykin finished the ECU game with just four catches, for 48 yards but did become the school's all-time leader in receptions (129).
There certainly hasn't been much to complain about on the defensive side of the ball for Tech thus far. Its only been two games, but the numbers are impressive, allowing just 11.5 ppg and just 202.5 yards of total offense. In addition, the team has collected six sacks, 17 TFLs and forced five turnovers.
Linebackers Tariq Edwards and Bruce Taylor are tied for the team-lead in tackles with 11. All-American CB Jayron Hosley (three tackles) is the star of the defense though, as not many opposing signal-callers will look to throw on his side of the field.