This review is going to be a bit different. Why, you ask? Well, it’s different because the history between the teams is exactly one; you saw that correctly, ONE game long. The Hokies are 1 and 0 vs the East Carolina Pirates. That’s the way we need to look at it, and that’s the way I am going to go at this preview. All old stuff is just old stuff.
Saturday the Hokies visit Greenville, North Carolina and Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium to take on the ECU Pirates for the second time in as many years. (There that was a truthful statement.) Last season, the Pirates came north to a Lane Stadium crowd and football team spoiling for a fight and a good measure of revenge.
We won’t talk about why, but we all know down to our wet uncomfortable toes why beating ECU was so important last season. This is the second contest between Justin Fuente and Scottie Montgomery. Montgomery replaced Ruffin McNeill in December of 2015 a beat behind Fuente inking the deal with Virginia Tech to replace Frank Beamer.
Last season’s game was a complete restart for both programs, and Tech really needed it. Last year’s 54 – 17 trip to the woodshed might not be fully appreciated by the ECU players who have returned. The problem is that ECU has a serious problem this season. They dropped their opener to FCS program James Madison (We know how that one feels, it hurts) by an embarrassing 34-14. The Pirate Offense couldn’t get moving, and the defense didn’t manage to do much stopping of Dukes scoring opportunities. Adding a bit more insult to everything the loss was at home. Then in week 2 the Pirates made the trip to Morgantown to face a very upset and angry Mountaineer football team. The 56-20 score also came with a concussion for ECU starting QB Thomas Sirk. Sirk looks like he’s cleared the protocol to play on Saturday, so that could be a factor.
ECU’s team wasn’t completely terrible last Saturday, but Sirk still tossed up two picks, and their defense struggled. The odds makers have us laying 22 points to the Pirates. So that’s when you see my wincing start. Let’s go over where we need to take a serious tick check in order to make that insane spread work.
First, the name that you saw listed at QB is correct. We have faced Thomas Sirk before, in a Blue Devil uniform, and we had serious problems with him both times. Sirk is the bane of every Foster Defense since I can remember; a running QB. He’s 6’4” tall and weighs in at a charitable 220. That’s taller than Andrew Motuapuaka and about the same size as Tremaine Edmunds. Folks that is not a set of facts that should be dismissed lightly. He’s a load to take down when he gets moving, and he gets moving in a hurry. I look for Scottie Montgomery to try to take some serious advantage of our defensive issues. Of course the potential for Sirk to have to sit it out, or get a bit tender on things is always there; but I am not counting on it.
Second, the Hokie offense has to do better against a shaky Pirate defense, than it did against a charged up Delaware crew. Josh Jackson will need to be a bit more patient in the pocket. That means the offensive line is going to need to block for him, and convince him that they’ll keep him on his feet long enough to make his check downs and key reads. When he did that, last week, he was much better. The peek read, and panic sort of playing style won’t cut it past the next couple of games. JJ is going to need to calm down and be a bit more patient. Maybe watch some films of Tyrod, and how he moved around the pocket, making time, and still reading down field. Jackson can do it; but Saturday he’s going to be challenged and it’s a real opportunity for him to turn a corner.
Third, Fuente has to get back to a more balanced attack. Last week there seemed to be a real urge to avoid the running game. It’s fair to note that Delaware loaded things up and geared their defense to stop us on the ground; but we didn’t get a structured passing attack that loosened up the box so that we could get some quality runs lit. There was also a tendency to smash up the middle into a pile, so the zone runs weren’t being executed well. There are two games left to fix those problems. Then Clemson rears its ugly head.
Fourth, someone has got to fix Joey’s accuracy problems. They are going to become even more glaring and difficult to ignore as the season and opportunities for close, field goal to win, games are regular occurrences. What I know is that he is not missing by much. One kick was blocked last week so that’s on the Special Teams blockers, but one was a miss that flew over the outer half of the upright. Yeah a half a football off… but it still was a miss. He’s got to calm down and refocus. It’s like a power hitter who drops into a batting slump. First they get frustrated so they stop seeing the ball. Then they get angry and start screwing with their swing. Eventually they are so messed up and out of sorts that they either just relax and start hitting again, or they pack it in. Joey is definitely not packing it in. We need him to relax and let his problem fix itself.
So, that’s my take on this weekend’s game. It’s a must win for Virginia Tech, and a must win for ECU. That means that we need to show up on Saturday at the 3:30 kickoff understanding that we have a seriously difficult opponent who will be spoiling for revenge, and desperate for a win. That’s a dangerous team to face.
Virginia Tech wins, if it executes its offense with good efficiency. The Hokies need to drive the ball, establish good rhythm, and get some balance between play types. The Tech Defense needs to contain Sirk, and pick him off when the opportunity arrases. He’s still vulnerable to pressure and taking questionable decisions in selecting targets. #DBU should be able to grab one or more from him.
Virginia Tech loses, if we can’t stop Sirk, and we can’t get the offense to work. One is not so certain, let’s see if you can guess which one.
I call this series “The Accidental Rivalry”. Tech’s the vast favorite, even in ECU’s environs. We still need to play our best football on Saturday.
Given the spread and the knowledge how does this one go?
This poll is closed
Pirates in a surprise Queen Anne’s Revenge squeaker
Pirates in a nearly miraculous blowout
Tech in a nervous underperforming close call
Hokies blow the doors off the Pirates’ gunports.