During the Q & A I refer to myself as GC (GobblerCountry) and Al as BV (Bonesville). Enjoy, and GO HOKIES!
GC: Has the ECU offense looked as good as billed so far? Should the Hokies be concerned?
BV: The Pirate offense has looked pretty effective in a 2-0 start but you have to factor in the caliber of competition. In a 52-38 win over Old Dominion, ECU outscored a program that is transitioning to the Football Bowl Subdivision after a rapid rise through the Football Championship Subdivision. Monarchs quarterback Taylor Heinicke had a special night and kept ODU in the game for a long time. The Pirates utilized their running game more against Florida Atlantic.
Second question: Yes, the Hokies should be concerned. If you aren't concerned, you aren't preparing properly, regardless of the opponent.
GC: What one weakness (or more than one if you're having trouble deciding) can you identify in ECU's offense (even if you're nitpicking)?
BV: The run game hasn't been overwhelming although the Pirates run a spread passing offense. There isn't a lot of proven depth at running back.
GC: Defensively, what do you expect of the Pirates against the Hokies? Are there any problem areas you would tell Frank Beamer to exploit if he was reading this?
BV: Starting linebackers Jeremy Grove and Kyle Tudor are out with injuries so ECU will be looking for Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams to step up. I expect Virginia Tech to test those guys, both of whom are physical but less experienced than the regulars.
GC: Conversely, if you're Ruffin McNeill, what part of the Hokies defense do you try to exploit? What part of the offense do you want to take advantage of?
BV: I think ECU will do what it does and respond to whatever adjustments the Hokies make. That means quick passes to the perimeter and possible deep balls into the seams of the secondary. Shane Carden is a relatively mobile quarterback but he hasn't seen a defense the caliber of Virginia Tech's this season. In an ideal world, the passing game will open up the Pirates' ground attack. ECU has to be strong at the point of attack defensively, otherwise Virginia Tech will just keep pounding away. The Pirates can't let Logan Thomas create plays after the called play breaks down.
GC: ECU and Virginia Tech have played quite frequently under Frank Beamer, more so than any other non-conference opponent if I'm not mistaken during his tenure. The question is, do ECU fans ever get tired of seeing Virginia Tech on the schedule?
BV: I think the Hokies represent a challenge and the Pirates always seem to like challenges. Because of their fan support, I imagine the ECU administrators like playing Virginia Tech at home. Ticket sales are an important source of revenue for a program that doesn't have television revenue of the magnitude of an ACC member.
GC: What is the ECU fan's perception of a Virginia Tech fan from your experience?
BV: Supportive fans who have endured a rise from the days when both programs were independents. There doesn't appear to be the same degree of animosity between ECU and the Hokies that tends to characterize relationships between the Pirates and UNC or N.C. State.
GC: The Pirates engineered a come-from-behind victory over the Hokies in Charlotte to open 2008 in front of a national audience. Where would that win rank in the annals of ECU football history?
BV: That win was big because it gave that team immediate credibility and they followed it up the following week with a 24-3 home win over West Virginia. That team lost in overtime at N.C, State to start a 3-game tailspin but came back to capture the program's first Conference USA championship. ECU's athletic media relations department is compiling the top 15 home wins and releasing them over the course of the 2013 season since this is the 50th anniversary of Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium but the game in the Queen City wouldn't be in that category. If you talk about wins in consecutive games, that would rank pretty high. That game in Charlotte, with 72,169 on hand, was the third largest crowd to see a Pirate win in person, ranking behind attendance at South Carolina in 1996 and 1999.
GC: Granted this is unlikely to happen, but if ECU were ever offered the opportunity to become members of the ACC in all sports, what would Pirates fans think? What would the athletic department/administration do?
BV: Sports Illustrated used to run a feature called Signs of the Apocalypse or something to that effect. They may still have it but I don't recall seeing it lately. Membership in the ACC certainly would fall in that category from the perspective of Pirate fans. The athletic administrators would accept forthwith and smile for days. The only thing left would be for Governor Pat McCrory to call out the National Guard to try and control the revelry on Cotanche Street. Virginia Tech was fortunate to have an advocate in Virginia at the behest of a former governor. ECU has had no such backing from its sister institutions in the UNC system. The ACC's grant of rights agreement will preclude any departures to other power conferences. That makes the Pirates a possibility if leagues such as the SEC or Big 12 decide they want a presence in the Carolinas. ECU's facilities have improved tremendously over the last two decades and Pirate fans would rise to the occasion with their support if such an invitation were extended. That said, ECU is pretty excited about its pending move to the American Athletic Conference, effective July 1, 2014.
GC: For Hokie fans making the trip, either for the first time or just interested for an insider's perspective, what are some things to do/places to eat in Greenville?
BV: There are the usual restaurant chains along Greenville Boulevard -- Applebee's, Outback, Hooters, etc. Other stops include Carolina Alehouse on Greenville Boulevard which has plenty of TVs for following action later in the day but good luck getting seated, especially if ECU wins. There's a Logan's Roadhouse, which will be lively, and Professor O'Cools is tucked away nearby. If I was heading back to Blacksburg, I might stop at Parker's Barbecue on U.S. 301 in Wilson, just off 264. I'm assuming that folks at Virginia Tech know what real barbecue is.
GC: And finally, the game itself. Who do you think will win, by how much and why? (don't hesitate to provide a score if you were so inclined)
BV: I'm really only qualified to speak to one side of this question. The last time I really sat down and watched a Hokies game, I thought they got jobbed by the review officials in their bowl game year before last. ECU is better than the 2011 team that Virginia Tech beat 17-10 in Greenville, holding the Pirates to 112 total yards. ECU strength and conditioning coach Jeff Connors prepares teams to win in the fourth quarter. Ruffin McNeill and staff have been recruiting players to their systems for four years now. I think the program's potential is the best since its defensive front in 2009 went on to the NFL. It's a different kind of team with an assortment of emerging playmakers in the passing game. Greenville can be a tough place to win if the Pirates and their fan base are in sync. I'm looking forward to it and I have a hope bordering on expectation that ECU fans will go home happy.
Thanks again to Al for joining us for the Q & A. For all the news and coverage from a Pirate perspective this weekend and throughout the season, make sure to check out Bonesville. For all the Hokie stuff you could ever want, don't move a muscle. YOU'RE ON IT here at Gobbler Country.