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The Pirates have been competitive against Tech, and this year's squad may be one of coach Ruffin McNeill's best.
East Carolina's Lance Ray (3) runs past the Florida Atlantic defense on Thursday in Greenville, N.C.
Monday, September 9, 2013
BLACKSBURG - Frank Beamer has knack for talking up opponents, even the ones overmatched by his Virginia Tech squad, so his effusive praise for foes can often be taken with a grain of salt.
But history suggests this week it's not just standard coachspeak.
Beamer was extremely complimentary of East Carolina (2-0), who the Hokies will play in Greenville, N.C., at noon Saturday, the first matchup of an eight-game agreement between the schools that will go through 2020.
"They've got our attention and have got our respect," Beamer said Monday. "They're a very, very explosive football team."
The Hokies (1-1) have been fortunate to leave Greenville with wins in each of their last two trips. In 2011, 11th-ranked Virginia Tech pulled out a 17-10 win in quarterback Logan Thomas' first road start, needing a Josh Oglesby touchdown run in the fourth quarter to break a tie.
In 2009, the Hokies won 16-3, getting 179 yards from running back Ryan Williams and a strong defensive performance, but still not being able to shake the Pirates.
East Carolina hasn't only been competitive in Greenville. The Pirates knocked off the 17th-ranked Hokies in Charlotte 27-22 to open the 2008 season, one of the school's several wins against BCS-level competition over the years.
Although Virginia Tech has won four of five matchups with East Carolina since 2007, three were decided by 10 points or less.
This year's team might be coach Ruffin McNeill's best in his four years with the Pirates. ECU returns 16 starters from a team that finished 8-5 last season and 7-1 in the Conference USA, its only league loss coming to division champ Central Florida.
This season UCF moved to the new American Athletic Conference, where the Pirates will go next year. But East Carolina has one last shot at winning the East Division for the first time since 2009, listed among the favorites with Marshall.
Beamer is most impressed by the Pirates' offense, which has scored 83 points in wins against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic. Quarterback Shane Carden has thrown for 638 yards and seven touchdowns with no picks in two games, completing close to 80 percent of his passes.
"That's hard to do in pass skel," Beamer said. "And they're doing it in real games."
The Hokies are optimistic two injured starters will be ready by then. Right guard Andrew Miller sprained his ankle against Western Carolina and was in a walking boot on the sideline during the second half.
"I think we miss his mentality when he's not in the game, his toughness," Beamer said. "I think he's exactly what you want. ... Not only from just blocking, physically what he can do, but mentally what he brings to that group."
Running back J.C. Coleman tweaked the ankle injury that kept him out of the opener against Alabama. He ran seven times for 38 yards, all on one drive, before coming out against Western Carolina.
"I think he'll be better this week than he was last week," Beamer said.
Marshall kicks at noon
Virginia Tech's game against Marshall on Sept. 21 at Lane Stadium has been set as a noon kickoff. It will be televised by ESPNU or ESPNews or be online on ESPN3.com. The ACC will make that decision by Sept. 15.
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