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ECU’s Vintavious Cooper is bottled up by Virginia Tech’s defense Saturday. The Hokies rank second nationally in total defense and 10th against the run.
East Carolina running back Vintavious Cooper carries the ball against Virginia Tech. The Pirates, who came into Saturday averaging 41 points per game, struggled against Tech’s defense.
Sunday, September 15, 2013
Here are five thoughts following the Hokies' 15-10 win against the Pirates ...
1. It's safer saying the defense is legit after Week 3.
It's only three games into the season, and it's not wise to put a ton of stock into a small sample size of statistics, but these are some pretty impressive numbers so far: the Hokies are second nationally to Michigan State in total defense (190.7 ypg), second in pass defense (106.3 ypg) and 10th in rushing defense (84.3 ypg). And they've only played one tomato can in their first three games.
Those numbers look even better after seeing No. 1 Alabama roll up 568 yards and 49 points against Texas A&M. The jury might be out on East Carolina as a team this year, but that offense is going to put up some numbers, and Tech made the Pirates look clueless after that opening drive.
2. Particularly impressive is Tech's pass defense.
Alabama's AJ McCarron looked out of sorts against Virginia Tech in the opener. He threw for 334 yards and four touchdowns against Texas A&M. East Carolina's Shane Carden looked equally good coming into yesterday's game (615 yards, 7 TD, 0 INTs) and similarly perplexed going up against the Hokies (19 for 31, 157 yards, TD, 3 INTs). Those are two very good passing games that the Hokies more or less shut down.
3. Everyone might have been premature in assuming the run game was all the way back.
After two weeks of showing a hard-nosed, physical running game, Tech took a step back Saturday. East Carolina was dedicated to committing enough players to the run to shut it down and force the Hokies to the air, and it worked pretty well. Trey Edmunds, the darling of the first two weeks, had 21 carries for 42 yards, finding no room to run. The other running backs contributed little. Some credit should go to East Carolina, which surprisingly has given up only 82.3 rushing yards per game, one spot ahead of Virginia Tech in the national rankings.
But part is on the Hokies' offensive line. Right guard Andrew Miller didn't mince words afterward. He thought the offense played "terrible" and said it wasn't acceptable. "We weren't creating enough space on the zone, getting to our aiming points right and climbing to the linebackers," Miller said. "They were backdooring us a lot of times, so we've just got to be better at that, creating space down the line with this wide zone." Translation: there's still plenty of work to do.
4. The Pirates dared Logan Thomas to beat them through the air, and he was good in bursts.
There is good Logan, the one who went 10 for 11 for 117 yards on the two touchdown drives, who was clutch on third down, completing eight passes to move the chains. And there is bad Logan, the one who was fortunate not have a few more passes picked off, especially a pick six he gift-wrapped in the flat that ECU linebacker Montese Overton dropped. It would have altered the fourth quarter finish drastically.
This might just be what you get from Thomas at this stage of his career - a quarterback who will drive you crazy one moment and look NFL caliber the next.
5. Cody Journell had a bad day, which isn't a big deal ... for now.
Entering Saturday, Journell had missed only 11 kicks in his college career - three extra points and eight field goals, five of which were from 40-plus.
That's pretty reliable, which only emphasizes how out of sorts the senior was against East Carolina, missing two field goals and an extra point and having another field goal miss negated by a penalty. That's a pretty bad day, and it happens with kickers from time to time. The real concern comes if it happens again.
Kicking can be a head game. And while coaches trying to ice the kicker by calling timeouts in a big spot is usually ineffective (and a waste of time), struggling kickers can certainly get in their own heads.