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Virginia Tech football: 5 takeaways in win over East Carolina

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NCAA Football: Virginia Tech at East Carolina
Virginia Tech WR Cam Phillips after one of his three scores vs. ECU
James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports

The Virginia Tech Hokies got off to a slow start in their 64-17 thrashing of the East Carolina Pirates on Saturday. The start had fans in full-blown panic-mode as the Hokies led the Pirates 23-17 at the half. The second half, however, was a different story as Tech scored 41 unanswered points and this game turned into a rout fast.

As the score would indicate, there were several standout performances in this one. Here are our five takeaways VT’s win over ECU that moved the Hokies to 3-0 on the season.

Josh Jackson continues to impress

In the game against West Virginia, the Hokies needed Jackson’s legs to pull away. However, after the game it was apparent that was not something the Hokies could do on a regular basis. Jackson is a capable runner but isn’t built withstand 10-15 runs per game like former starter Jerod Evans did. So, the next few games would be about continuing to make Jackson more comfortable in the pocket as he adjusted to the college game, limiting his rushing opportunities.

So far, mission accomplished.

After rushing for 101 yards against WVU, Jackson has carried the football just a few times in the past two games. That’s good. The Hokies need to get their running game going so he doesn’t have to run it as much, which makes him more effective when he chooses to pull it down and run with it.

As for the passing game, Jackson was flawless. He completed 24 of 31 passes for 372 yards and five touchdowns; All career-highs, of course. He hit some big passes he had missed the previous week. Jackson had a good command of this offense and gets one more prep game before Clemson comes to town at the end of the month.

Running game was clicking

Last week, the Hokies struggled to run the ball effectively against FCS Delaware. That worried some people. Relax.

Against East Carolina, Tech rushed the ball 29 times for 287 yards and three scores. Six players had 26 or more yards on the ground. Travon McMillian led Tech with 72 yards on 11 attempts.

This by no means the Hokies have an elite rushing outfit. It remains a work in progress. This is encouraging, though. The Hokies need performances like this from McMillian, who possesses outstanding talent but isn’t always consistent.

Deshawn McClease also chipped in with 55 yards. Head coach Justin Fuente must continue finding ways to get McClease involved.

Defense started slowly but finished strong

We knew ECU’s offense could possibly give the Hokies fits. Sure, the Pirates don’t possess the same talent they’ve had in recent years, but the up-tempo style has given Virginia Tech trouble at times. Saturday looked like another one of those days.

The Pirates scored 17 points and had 204 total yards in the first quarter alone. Instead of folding under the pressure, defensive coordinator Bud Foster stuck with the game plan and shut down ECU completely after the first quarter. East Carolina gained just four yards in the second quarter and 73 total yards in the second half. Yes, that’s pure domination.

It was important for the Hokies to take someone’s best shot before ACC play arrives. Seeing how they would respond was important for Fuente and defensive coordinator Bud Foster. It’s safe to say Tech passed this test with flying colors.

Cam Phillips dominates

OK, this is a weekly occurrence. Cam Phillips goes out there catches a ton of balls and gets near or goes over 100 yards. He did it in a big way against East Carolina. Phillips caught 14 balls for 189 yards and three touchdowns on Saturday. His 14 receptions were a single-game record while his three scores were just one short of Ernest Wilford’s record of four set back in 2002.

On the season, Phillips now has 27 receptions, 417 and five touchdowns. He’s the FBS leader in receiving yards and tied for second in TD catches. He is on pace to shatter all of Virginia Tech’s single-season and career records.

As long as Phillips is healthy and plays, the Hokies’ offense always has a shot.

Joey Slye breaks a record

Senior kicker Joey Slye broke Virginia Tech legend Shayne Graham’s record for career field goals on Saturday. Slye, who also holds the single-game record and season record for field goals made, now has 69 for his career and counting.

Graham, himself, took to Twitter to congratulate Slye.

Congrats to Slye from all of us here at Gobbler Country.