CHARLOTTE, NC - SEPTEMBER 03: Dominique Davis #4 of the East Carolina Pirates gets free from Stephon Gilmore #5 of the Carolina Gamecocks during their game at Bank of America Stadium on September 3, 2011 in Charlotte, North Carolina. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Here to give us more insight into Saturday's game is Stephen from the East Carolina site Hoist the Colours. Visit them for more information on the Pirates and what to expect from them this weekend.
GC: What difference will the return of Michael Bowman and Emanuel Davis make for the Pirates this week?
HTC: Their return will make a big difference. Bowman and Davis are two seniors that have started numerous games over their career and have a ton of experience. Bowman is one of the few veteran players at inside wide receiver for the Pirates, while the All-Conference Davis rejoins a veteran secondary. What is even better news for ECU is that the players that filled in for those two (CB Leonard Paulk and IWR Danny Webster), performed admirably last week against a very good team in South Carolina, proving that Pirates have much more quality depth all-around than they did a year ago.
How has East Carolina adapted to the 3-4 defense through preseason and the first game?
The Pirates have transitioned well quickly and it was a much-needed switch. Sure, there were mistakes last week, but the overall improvement was easily noticed by those that watched the game. Don't let the final score fool you. South Carolina did score 56 points, but take away the fumble returned for a TD as well as the punt returned for a TD and the defense only surrendered 42. Not to mention that the offense turned the ball over four other times deep in their own territory, leaving the defense with their backs against the wall. The team did a solid job of containing Lattimore (his longest rush was 16 yards) and shut down the passing game without their top cornerback. They held an explosive South Carolina offense to 351 yards, a far cry from when they were allowing over 500 yards to Navy and Rice a year ago.
With the number of rangy, hybrid LB/DE-type bodies the Pirates possess on defense, the 3-4 makes perfect sense. Still, there are a number of young players on the defense (no seniors in the starting front seven) and it is still a work in progress, but the unit should only continue to get better each and every week.
This is the Pirates' second year running the Air Raid. What improvement, if any, did you see out of the offense in that first game?
The starting quarterback, Dominique Davis, appeared much more comfortable running the offense. A year ago, he only had one month to learn the offense prior to the start of the season and, though he put up great numbers statistically, he had a lot of ups and downs. Against South Carolina, Davis checked in-and-out of a lot of plays early, and a lot of times read the defense successfully, leading to a number of big plays for the offense. Outside of a couple of bad passes in the third quarter, Davis was sensational against one of the best defenses in the SEC.
The offensive line, which is the third-youngest unit in the country and starts four sophomores, more than held their own against a dominant SC DL, not allowing a sack. That matchup should help them prepare for another great DL in Virginia Tech.
Also, the running backs and wide receivers appeared to be much more in sync with their routes and offensive communication than they were at the beginning of last year.
Last year the Pirates jumped out to a lead before the Hokies had a huge second half, similar to what happened last week in Charlotte. What does ECU have to improve on in order to complete an upset this weekend?
It might sound simple, but first and foremost, they just need to work on not turning ball over. Four second-half turnovers in a matter of minutes did them in last week against South Carolina, while two interceptions in the latter stages of last year's game against Virginia Tech all but ended that contest.
Secondly, the Pirates' must find a way to adjust offensively once the opposing defense figures out what they're doing. This is a big key to watch because Virginia Tech is the first team to play the Pirates having already seen the Air Raid offense once before. We all know how good of a defensive mastermind Bud Foster is, so I'm sure he will come up with a lot of different looks and blitzes to attack the ECU offense.
The Pirates have quite the mastermind themselves in young offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley, and this is a big game for him. Can he come up with some different looks and plays to throw off what should be a well prepared Hokie defense?
It won't be a night game, but what can we expect out of the historically tough Rowdy Dowdy crowd on Saturday?
There is no doubt that Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium will be rocking on Saturday afternoon. The home opener in Greenville is always special, and when you throw in a perennial powerhouse like Virginia Tech on the opposite side, the fans are only going to be that much more excited.
It might only hold 50,000, but it will be the loudest 50K you will ever hear. I think one of the big keys is how a talented, but inexperienced Logan Thomas handles the crowd noise and pressure. Though, playing behind an experienced OL and alongside a great RB in David Wilson should help him out tremendously.
Obviously, Virginia Tech fans know a thing or two about creating a hostile enviornment to play in, but I think the Hokie fans that make the trek down to Greenville will come away impressed.
It should be nothing less than a grade A college football atmosphere come Saturday.