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Virginia Tech Football: East Carolina's Defense Dominates Hokies' Offensive Line

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Most came into the East Carolina game knowing that the Pirates' front seven was good, but not as good as the Hokies' offensive line made them out to be. Nose tackle Terry Williams man handled any Hokie offensive lineman he was put up against and helped prove that the Tech big men still have a lot of work to do.

Michael Shroyer

What occurred in the first half of the game against the Pirates on Saturday left fans scratching their heads. I sat on my couch in utter disbelief as the Pirates went up 21-0 and should have been up at least 42-7 by halftime but suffered from missed opportunities. Ultimately, the Hokies didn't come ready to play and were upset in Lane Stadium, losing to the Pirates 28-21.

One of the contributing factors to Tech's embarrassing loss was the play of the offensive line. I think one way to look at this is to look at the Ohio State game. The Hokies were pumped for the opportunity to take down the Buckeyes and were playing with a certain chip on their shoulder. They were going up against a 4-3 scheme comprised of what some say is the best front seven in the nation. The Buckeyes front seven is strong, fast, and aggressive. They got pressure on quarterback Michael Brewer, but Brewer was able to make plays.

This time around with ECU's 3-4 scheme, nose tackle Terry Williams was able to penetrate up the middle and wreaked havoc in the backfield. The Pirates caused enough commotion to force Brewer into mistakes as the ECU secondary held Tech's receivers in check for the most part. But just for kicks, let's compare what the Ohio State defense was able to do and what ECU's defense did.

OHIO STATE DEFENSE:

Solo


Assisted


Total

TFL/Yds


Sacks/Yds


FF


FR-Yds


Int-Yds


BrUP


QBH


48


26

74

10.0/48

2.0/24

1

1-0

2-0

2

1

Run Defense: 125 yards, 3.0 yards per carry, two touchdowns.

Pass Defense: 199 Yards, two touchdowns, Brewer went 23-36.

EAST CAROLINA DEFENSE:

Solo


Assisted


Total


TFL/Yds


Sacks/Yds


Int-Yds


BrUP


QBH


36


56

92

6.0/30

3.0/24

2-11

4

8

Run Defense: 91 yards, no touchdowns, 2.8 yards per carry.

Pass Defense: 298 yards, three touchdowns, Brewer went 30-56.

While ECU quarterback Shane Carden was pretty comfortable in the pocket all afternoon and throwing at will, Brewer was under constant pressure. He was hurried eight times and sacked three times for a total loss of 30 yards. He was never able to really get into a groove, and the Hokies were plagued by penalties once again. The Pirates defense was able to keep plays in front of them for the most part, not allowing Tech to get to the second level. Terry Williams and the defensive ends did their job and allowed the linebackers to come up and make plays. The 3-4 scheme of the Pirates worked almost to perfection.

The Hokie offensive line did have its moments and other times left me yelling at the television. I saw tackle Laurence Gibson let a defensive end around the edge without even putting up a fight. Mostly I saw Terry Williams bust through center Caleb Farris one too many times. With no production at all in the first half it was obvious that the Hokies would have to fight and earn everything on offense, which isn't Tech's strong suit. They have to start out strong and have a lot of momentum in order to be at their best. And Saturday wasn't a good day for either of those.

But all the blame shouldn't be just on the offensive line. Michael Brewer has to do a better job with his decision making and get the ball out of his hand if there's nothing there. I understand that he's a play maker and tries his best, but he can't throw the ball across his body late in a play and expect no repercussions. The offensive line gave him plenty of time on a lot of plays versus ECU and he simply didn't do anything with it.

As far as running the football, I think the Pirates just wanted it more. Their defensive scheme worked and they won the battle at the line of scrimmage all game long. Yes, Tech's offensive line is athletic and looks improved, but they need to get a little nasty and be more aggressive if Tech wants to acquire its old identity as a ground and pound running football team.

The Ohio State game was a spark but it never ignited the fire the Hokies needed to be consistent and focused enough to take down a tough opponent in ECU. The offensive line has been the one thing that the Hokies needed the most improvement on over the years. We thought this season would be the time that we see the dominance we want up front, but it seems that there's a lot of work left to be done.