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Virginia Tech Football: Scouting The Opponent: East Carolina Pirates

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Coming off the biggest win in recent program history against the Ohio State Buckeyes, now that the rioting is over, the Virginia Tech Hokies prepare to take on a familiar foe with a lethal passing attack in the East Carolina Pirates. Take a look at what the Hokies are up against this week back in Blacksburg. The game is Saturday at noon on ESPN, so don't miss it!

Jim Dedmon-USA TODAY Sports

From the emotional season opener after the tragic shootings in 2007 to the depressing loss to East Carolina at the Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Hokies and the Pirates both share fond memories of one another over recent years and have become familiar opponents. So it seems fitting that we start off this week's scouting the opponent with a look at past head-to-head matchups:

Virginia Tech versus East Carolina: (1956-2013)

Date


Site


Result


Sat, Sept 14, 2013


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 15-10

Sat, Sept 10, 2011


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 17-10

Sat, Sept 18, 2010


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 49-27

Thu, Nov 5, 2009


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 16-3

Sat, Aug 30, 2008


Charlotte, North Carolina

L, 22-27

Sat, Sept 1, 2007


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 17-7

Thu, Sept 7, 2000


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 45-28

Sat, Sept 5, 1998


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 38-3

Sat, Nov 9, 1996


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 35-14

Sat, Oct 15, 1994


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 27-20

Sat, Oct 30, 1993


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 31-12

Sat, Sept 12, 1992


Greenville, North Carolina

L, 27-30

Sat, Nov 16, 1991


Blacksburg, Virginia

L, 17-24

Sat, Sept 15, 1990


Greenville, North Carolina

W, 24-23

Sat, Oct 21, 1989


Greenville, North Carolina

L, 10-14

Sat, Sept 10, 1988


Blacksburg, Virginia

W, 27-16

Sat, Oct 17, 1987


Blacksburg, Virginia

L, 23-32

Sat, Sept 15, 1956


Bluefield, West Virginia

W, 37-2

(18 Games Played, Overall record: VT 13-5) (Home Record: 6-2) (Away Record: 6-2) (Neutral Field: 1-1) (VT ranked when playing: 6-1) (Total Points: VT-477 ECU-302) (Average Score: VT-26 ECU-17).

Generally, the Hokies perform well against the Pirates, but it's always been a tough match up in recent years with ECU's well improved defensive front versus the Hokies' inconsistent offensive line. And then the real show is usually ECU's dangerous passing game versus Tech's stout secondary. Let's take a look at what the Pirates did last year:

East Carolina 2013 Results:

Date


Opponent


Result


Sat, Aug 31


Vs. Old Dominion

W, 52-38

Thu, Sept 5


Vs. Florida Atlantic

W. 31-13

Sat, Sept 14


Vs. Virginia Tech

L, 15-10

Sat, Sept 28


@ North Carolina

W, 55-31

Sat, Oct 5


@ Middle Tennessee

W, 24-17

Sat, Oct 12


@ Tulane

L, 36-33, OT

Sat, Oct 19


Vs. Southern Miss

W, 55-14

Sat, Nov 2


@ FIU

W, 34-13

Sat, Nov 9


Vs. Tulsa

W, 58-24

Sat, Nov 16


Vs. UAB

W, 63-14

Sat, Nov 23


@ NC State

W, 42-28

Fri, Nov 29


@ Marshall

L, 59-28

Mon, Dec 23


Vs. Ohio (Beef ‘O’ Brady’s Bowl)

W, 37-20

(Overall: 10-3) (Conference: 6-2) (Home: 5-1) (Away: 4-2) (Neutral Field: 1-0) (Against ACC Teams: 2-1)

East Carolina won ten games last year playing in Conference USA. I've gained all the respect in the world for both ECU and Marshall over the past few years. They come in and compete no matter who their opponents are and it shows. Both ECU and Marshall almost pulled off victories over the Hokies in 2013. ECU even beat both North Carolina and NC State, while Marshall beat Maryland and stumbled in some other games that it should've won. But overall, the Pirates had a great season in 2013, averaging 40.2 points per game as their opponents averaged 24.8. They had the 25th ranked total offense in the nation led by quarterback Shane Carden with 468.2 yards per game (140.1 yards per game rushing and 328.1 yards per game passing). ECU had the 36th ranked total defense but was talented enough to give the Hokies some trouble in their 15-10 contest in 2013.

Who do the Pirates return?

Only nine starters total: five on offense and four on defense.

Offensively, ECU returns quarterback Shane Carden who threw for 4,139 yards, 33 touchdowns, and averaged 318.4 yards per game in 2013 while completing 70.5 percent of his passes. Carden is what makes this offense tick as it's a pass first, pass heavy, pass, pass, pass offense, so it will be key to force him into mistakes with the football. He went 19-31, 158 yards, one touchdown, and three interceptions versus Tech's defense last year. But Carden is also somewhat of a rushing threat. He ran the ball 90 times last season for ten touchdowns, gaining 302 yards but had a net total of 103 yards because of sacks.

They also return Carden's favorite target, wide receiver Justin Hardy. Hardy had 114 catches for 1,284 yards and eight touchdowns last season. He also averaged 98.8 yards per game and 11.3 yards per catch. The Carden-Hardy connection is said to be one of the most elite in college football.

Along with Hardy returns a solid group of wide receivers including Isaiah Jones (62 catches, 604 yards, five touchdowns, 46.5 yards per game, and 9.7 yards per catch), Cam Worthy (19 catches, 295 yards, two touchdowns, 22.7 yards per game, and 15.5 yards per catch), and Bryce Williams (20 catches, 220 yards, five touchdowns, 16.9 yards per game, and 11 yards per catch).

In the backfield the Pirates will use Breon Allen at running back (62 rushes, 311 yards, three touchdowns, five yards per carry, 31.1 yards per game) and Chris Hairston (49 rushes, 186 yards, three touchdowns, 3.8 yards per carry, and 14.3 yards per game).

Defensively, ECU brings back defensive end Terrell Stanley who had 46 total tackles, ten tackles for a total loss of 50 yards, and seven sacks last season. Chrishon Rose moves from nose tackle where he had 31 tackles, six tackles for loss, and two sacks, and is now playing at defensive end. Linebackers Zeek Bigger and Brandon Williams return who combined for a total of 146 tackles, ten tackles for loss, and two sacks. They also return outside linebacker Montese Overton (50 tackles, six sacks). The only solid returning player in the secondary is cornerback Detric Allen who had 40 tackles in 2013.

Who did the Pirates lose?

Offensively, ECU lost its leading rusher in Vintavious Cooper (230 rushes, 1,193 yards, 13 touchdowns, 5.2 yards per carry, and 91.8 yards per game). Cooper was also a threat in the passing game with 44 catches for 412 yards and one touchdown in 2013. Also gone are receivers Lance Ray and Reese Wiggins who combined for 609 yards and seven touchdowns.

Along the offensive line, the Pirates lose three key big men: right guard (not the deodorant) Will Simmons who tallied 38 starts and was a first-team All-CUSA selection, left guard Jordan Davis who had 37 career starts and was a second-team All-CUSA selection, and right tackle Adhem Elsawi (27 career starts).

Defensively, ECU loses 179.5 tackles from last year with the departures of inside linebackers Kyle Tudor, Jeremy Grove, and Ty Holmes, and outside linebackers Derrell Johnson and Gabe Woullard, They also lose yet another 179 tackles with the departure of cornerback Adonis Armstrong (two interceptions) and safeties Damon Magazu (five interceptions), Chip Thompson (two interceptions), and Michael Dobson (one interception). In total, the Pirates lost over half of all their tackles from last season.

Their Expectations

Switching over from Conference USA to the American Athletic Conference, the Pirates are predicted to finish 8-4 overall and to finish second in the AAC at 7-1 behind Cincinnati. (per Athlon Sports)

My Prediction:

ECU is (1-1) on the season after the Pirates laid the smackdown on North Carolina Central 52-7, and just this past weekend lost by ten points to South Carolina 33-23. Carden threw for 321 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions against the Gamecocks, while as a team the Pirates ran for 132 yards. Again this team will be no push over and has the potential to upset Tech at home if the Hokies don't bring everything they have.

To me this seems a lot like the Ohio State game. ECU brings a stout defensive line and linebackers (not as talented as the Buckeyes, though). But the secondary is completely depleted from 2013 for the Pirates. Shane Carden is definitely the best quarterback in the AAC, is probably one of the most underrated players in the nation, and has plenty of weapons to throw to. But the ECU offensive line is inexperienced, and they don't have a running back as nearly as good as Cooper was.

I think Virginia Tech's confidence is at an all time high after the Ohio State win. The Hokies will take care of business against the Pirates and take advantage of mismatches along the ECU offensive line. Look for a good battle between Tech's secondary and Carden. Hokie quarterback Michael Brewer will have to be poised and manage this game through the air once again if the running game sputters against the ECU front seven. So look out for how the offensive line performs against the Pirates' 3-4 defense after facing Ohio State's explosive 4-3 look.

Virginia Tech defeats East Carolina 38-20