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2009 Virginia Tech Football: What to Watch vs. East Carolina

The Team

  • This team has two choices. It can come together and have a solid November like it has since it joined the ACC in 2004 or it can phone in the next four games and finish 8-4 or 7-5.
  • I think we'll know the answer after the ECU game. If the Hokies come out fired up and looking to show they aren't the same team that lost at home to UNC, they'll win out and have a chance to continue the 10-win streak in the bowl game. But if they come out unmotivated I think they'll be the same way the rest of the year and we'll have a 2003-like end to the season.

Virginia Tech Offense vs. East Carolina Defense

  • ECU's front seven is big and nasty and is one of the best run defenses in Conference USA. Just look at how big their two DTs are. Jay Ross is 6-3, 314 and the beastly Linval Joseph is 6-6, 322. 
  • Joseph is just another in a line of great DTs the Hokies have faced. He'll go a long way toward shutting down any running room the Hokies might have between the tackles.
  • Fortunately for Virginia Tech, Ryan Williams doesn't make his hay between the tackles. He's able to get outside and make people miss to get yards. I think he can still have a solid game without having to go against ECU's front seven.
  • I really think the Hokies can have success running zone-read option plays against ECU this week. We really haven't seen much of this since the Marshall game, but I think the Pirates have the kind of defense that can be susceptible to these misdirection plays that could lead to Tyrod Taylor getting open in space.
  • I also think the Hokies should use zone-read out of the shotgun because they will have a new center (Michael Via) this game. Taylor can sit in the shotgun and not have to worry about taking snaps under a new center. Plus, it helps mitigate the effect having a new center going against Joseph will have.
  • Speaking of Taylor, he gets to play against a suspect pass defense. Van Eskridge is a solid free safety for the Pirates but their secondary has struggled as a unit. 
  • We've seen Dyrell Roberts make some big plays the last couple weeks. But watch for Jarrett Boykin and Xavier Boyce to have opportunities to have big catches of their own against ECU's cornerbacks.

Virginia Tech Defense vs. East Carolina Offense

  • I don't understand how the Hokies can't get guys like Linval Joseph in Blacksburg to play DT. You need stout guys like Barry Booker in there to plug those running lanes.
  • From DT to linebacker to free safety, the Hokies are weak up the middle. And when your defense is weak up the middle, it's weak period.
  • Even without great size in the middle of the defensive line, the Hokies should be able to stop the Pirates' run game. ECU's two worst ypc averages came in its two games against BCS opponents: West Virginia and North Carolina. The Tar Heels held the Pirates to 1.83 ypc.
  • You'll see a lot of different Pirates get carries Thursday. That includes Patrick Pinkney when plays break down and wide receiver Dwayne Harris out of the wildcat formation. Harris is averaging over five yards per carry and leads the Pirates with four rushing touchdowns.
  • Pinkney killed the Hokies last year. He had key carries to get first downs and completed 19 of 23 passes to pick apart Virginia Tech. The Hokies have to get pressure on Pinkney as well as keep him in containment to keep him from hurting them with his feet.
  • I think if Dorian Porch has a big game it means Pinkney wasn't as effective as the Pirates would like him to be. This includes both wrapping him up before he's able to scramble for yards and disrupting the passing game.
  • Along with Michael Via, Lyndell Gibson will be getting his first career start Thursday. Gibson replaces Jake Johnson who has struggled recently. With Johnson on the bench, the Hokies get even smaller up the middle.

Outcome

  • The Hokies should come out and shut down the Pirates. This isn't the same Hokie team that lost to ECU last year and this ECU team isn't as good as last year's in my opinion. But a rowdy Dowdy crowd will keep this close most of the game.

Watch the Box Score For:

  • Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers
  • VT yardage on first down
  • VT red zone percentage
  • Patrick Pinkney's efficiency

Virginia Tech Players to Watch:

  • 34 - Ryan Williams, Fr., RB
  • 67 - Michael Via, Fr., OL
  • 39 - Lyndell Gibson, Fr., LB
  • 24 - Dorian Porch, Sr., ROV

East Carolina Players to Watch:

  • 15 - Patrick Pinkney, Sr., QB
  • 17 - Dwayne Harris, Jr., WR
  • 97 - Linval Joseph, Jr., DT
  • 4 - Van Eskridge, Sr., FS

Final Score

Virginia Tech 31, East Carolina 21