(Saturday, August 30th)
Final Score: East Carolina 27, (17) Virginia Tech 22
Charlotte, NC (Sports Network) - T.J. Lee's blocked punt and subsequent 27- yard return for a touchdown with 1:52 left in the fourth quarter capped a thrilling 27-22 comeback win for East Carolina over 17th-ranked Virginia Tech in the season opener for both teams.
Patrick Pinkney completed 19-of-23 passes for 211 yards with a touchdown for East Carolina (1-0), which came into the game having posted back-to-back winning seasons for the first time since the 1999 and 2000 campaigns.
"It was just a roller coaster, going back and forth, up and down," said East Carolina coach Skip Holtz. "I'm just so proud of these players, the way that they competed. They never gave up, they never quit, they kept believing. The leadership was awesome."
Sean Glennon connected on 14-of-23 passes for 139 yards and was picked off twice for the Hokies (0-1), who had won the previous six meetings against the Pirates.
Virginia Tech's Stephan Virgil returned a fumble 30 yards for a score and also converted two points from a blocked extra point try.
East Carolina was down nine points in the fourth quarter, but Pinkney scored on a three-yard run with 3:36 remaining, making it a 22-20 margin.
Facing a 4th-and-13 from their own 37, the Hokies were forced to punt, but Lee came charging through the line to block Brent Bowden's kick. Lee then raced uncontested to the end zone.
"I thought the snap was a little bit soft, and I think the kick was a little bit slow," said Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer. "The guy just broke through on our protection and he did a nice job."
Glennon was unable to get an additional first down for the Hokies, and Quentin Cotton broke up a fourth-down pass with 1:06 remaining. The Pirates ran out the remaining time.
"You know what the saying is, defense wins championships and offense sells tickets," said Cotton. "Coach told us from the get-go that it was going to be two battles of the defense and we just need the O to come along. And just that team camaraderie, how we stuck together throughout. Don't get me wrong that Virginia Tech is a great team, I give them the utmost respect, the ACC defending champions. But we just came out and played hard and we came out on top."
Glennon drove the Hokies deep in Pirates territory on the first possession of the game, but Cotton came up with an interception inside the 10-yard line.
Virginia Tech was stymied again later in the first quarter when Darren Evans, on a 4th-and-1 try from the five, was stuffed on a run.
The Hokies then caught a break less than three minutes into the second quarter. A swing pass behind the line of scrimmage was dropped and Virgil picked up the loose ball and rumbled 30 yards to the end zone.
Dalvon Mack fumbled the ensuing kickoff, setting up Virginia Tech in great position. Kenny Lewis finished off the 25-yard drive on a six-yard TD run up the middle.
Ben Ryan missed a 39-yard field goal attempt for the Pirates, but they finally caught a break when Nick Johnson intercepted Glennon. The 19-yard return set up East Carolina at the one, and Jonathan Williams punched it in from there with 1:16 left in the half.
The Pirates pulled within 14-13 on Pinkney's 12-yard TD pass to Jamar Bryant nearly five minutes into the third. The extra point attempt was blocked, and Virgil ran it back to the end zone for two points.
A 44-yard field goal try by Virginia Tech's Dustin Keys later in the third clanked off the right upright, but a 62-yard pass play from Glennon to Dyrell Roberts set up a three-yard TD run by Evans on the opening play of the fourth for a 22-13 lead. Keys missed the extra point attempt.
Brandon Simmons had 54 yards on 17 carries, while Williams had 48 yards on 10 rushes for the Pirates...Lewis had 62 yards rushing...ECU's last win against Va. Tech came on Sept. 12, 1992 in Greenville, NC...East Carolina becomes the first team in the 13-year history of Conference USA Football to ever win back- to-back games over nationally ranked teams. The Pirates closed out the 2007 season with a 41-38 victory over No. 22 Boise State in the Hawaii Bowl.
08/30 17:01:07 ET