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Virginia Tech Hokies vs the ECU Pirates 2016: The Accidental Rivalry

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This is “Heart Check” weekend. Last Saturday we passed the “Gut Check” with flying colors. This week we see if this team has the “Heart” to take the next step. ECU is a balanced team and dangerous - AGAIN!

NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina
More of this on Saturday, Please
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

We’ve already had the standard preview of the ECU game. There isn’t a bunch to add regarding the specifics of the roster or game plan. The knowns are that ECU has a new coach, their current season is not sparkling, but it isn’t horrible, either. In fact, they are at the very same 2-1 level that we are in the W-L column.

The important things to look at in the AAC East leading Pirates are just what the W-L situation is, and who and what it means to us, now.

Sep 3

vs

Western Carolina

W

52 - 7

Sep 10

vs

N.C. State

W

33 - 30

Sep 17

@

South Carolina

L

20 - 15

While Western Carolina isn’t the ‘biggest and baddest’ fish on the FCS scale, they can score some points, and ECU held them to a mere 7 while putting up 52. Let’s not compare that to how we did against Liberty; shall we?

The surprise and the real element of note in their three-game summary this season is an "upset" win over North Carolina State. There wasn’t a ton of defense in that game; and again ECU put up 33 for their winning effort. Yes, they lost to South Carolina. The Gamecocks are not the same level of football team that took the field during the Spurrier era; but even a rebuilding and struggling SEC team should put the 2nd tier AAC Pirates away with ease, right? Wrong. The Pirates fought hard, and brought a defense that didn’t show up in the second game.

New HC Scottie Montgomery replaces Ruffin McNeill (who had our number over his tenure), and brings some serious rebuilding assistant credentials to the table, including the miracle Duke Blue Devils of 2015. He’s seen the old Hokies before, and won’t be shocked or intimidated by the spectacle of Virginia Tech’s Orange Effect Homecoming Game Day.

Tech can look for a Read-Option running attack that can also pass. ECU Quarterback James Summers is also their second leading rusher behind Anthony Scott.

RUSHING

Att-Yds/TDs

SCOTT, Anthony RB

32-209/2

SUMMERS, James QB

27-207/2

ANDERSON, Devin RB

19-92/0

As noted they also have a passing game, and their numbers are significant.

RECEIVING

Rec-YDs/TDs

JONES, Zay WR

39-443/1

JOHNSON, Quay WR

23-164/1

WILLIAMS, Jimmy WR

9-143/1

SCOTT, Anthony RB

17-143/3

FARRIER, Deondr WR

5-73/0

BAGGETT, Steve TE

4-61/0

ANDERSON, Devin RB

7-50/1

SUMMERS, James QB

2-33/0

Zay Jones and Quay Johnson are a serious 1-2 punch and covering them is going to be a challenge for #DBU. Yes, some of those numbers are related to the first two games; but discounting their potential is a dangerous habit.

Which brings us right back to the opening object of this particular preview; namely, ECU has bedeviled Virginia Tech for just about a decade, and the Win/Loss balance shows that over the total of twenty meetings since 1956, the Pirates are a difficult team to beat. The balance is 13 – 7 in favor of Tech, but look at what gives for the last 10 seasons:

Season

Date

Site

Score (VT-Opp)

Rank

2015

Sat., Sep 26, 2015

Greenville, N.C.

L, 28-35

NR/NR

2014

Sat., Sep 13, 2014

Blacksburg, Va.

L, 21-28

17/NR

2013

Sat., Sep 14, 2013

Greenville, N.C.

W, 15-10

NR/NR

2011

Sat., Sep 10, 2011

Greenville, N.C.

W, 17-10

11/NR

2010

Sat., Sep 18, 2010

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 49-27

NR/NR

2009

Thu., Nov 5, 2009

Greenville, N.C.

W, 16-3

22/NR

2008

Sat., Aug 30, 2008

Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, N.C.

L, 22-27

17/NR

2007

Sat., Sep 1, 2007

Blacksburg, Va.

W, 17-7

9/NR

Even if we were ranked, there is rarely a major point differential between the two teams. Only the 2009 and 2010 Tech wins were convincing, and really the 2009 season was a defensive struggle that didn’t cover the Tech offense in any glory. Of course it’s the last two seasons that matter more than anything. The ECU loss from last season, in Greenville, was arguably the trigger point for the end of the Beamer Era in Blacksburg. Even with Brenden Motley at the helm, Tech’s effort was flat. When you combined it with the 2014 .500 season and the struggles of the early 2015 season, the final straw dropped. We would go on to lose other games, and win enough to struggle back to .500 for the 2015 season, but ECU was arguably the final flag on the prior era of Virginia Tech football.

So we enter ECU 2016, a Tech 2-1 record with an exhilarating 49-0 shutdown of Virginia Tech Big East Rival Boston College combined with a brand new head coach, Justin Fuente. "Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!" is all that I can think at the moment. We have a Homecoming buzz going on. There is the obligatory swag being handed out, a nifty little orange and white (huh? looks like a Vol ball) mini foam football showed up on the kitchen table, yesterday. The buzz around town is how great things were last week, and everyone is lathered up about taking on ECU on Saturday. Emotional memories can be tragically short in foresight, and viciously angry in hindsight.

ECU comes to Lane Stadium with two wins in a row under its belt, and we seem to be the team that regardless of their seasons’ results; we get the full measure of their football energy and skill. As has been mentioned by more than a few of us over the past season and a half, East Carolina most reminds us of Virginia Tech in the mid 1990’s, right in the building years of the Beamer Era. A team that can rise up and beat almost any opponent, and one that seems to be looking for both a reputation and some notice.

More than a few people have asked me if ECU is going to get "promoted out" of the AAC and move to a bigger more prestigious conference; like the Big XII or even the ACC. I tell them, that I don’t have a clue, no one in those conferences wants to pick up the phone and say; "hey, John, I’ve got some interesting news for you." I can only speculate and with the heavy pressure for the Big XII to expand to two divisions (even though they have demurred so far) ECU would be a prime pickup. There have been rumors of an ACC expansion of two more teams, but those I just dismiss right now because I just don’t see it or hear it more than the murmur of speculation. I can guess that if a team or two were to bolt the ACC, like Maryland, that ECU might get a visit from the membership committee. Again, that’s just blue sky speculation and what ifs, so take it all with a block of salt, please.

Suffice it to say that as of right now, the East Carolina State Pirates are coming to Lane, and we need to take them for what they are; our serious smash-mouth football playing accidental rivals. We need to be prepared for a tough contest that we take as seriously as we take with any ACC team. The Virginia Tech Hokies of Week 3 can win this football game. We won’t mention Week 2, too loudly, though the pain might be bracing enough to prevent overconfidence.

GO HOKIES!!!!!