Thursday, August 28, 2008

Game Preview - vs. ECU

On August 30, 2008, the ECU Pirates square off against the Hokies in the same match-up that kicked off both teams' respective seasons last year. Virginia Tech handed the Pirates a 17-7 loss, and they are back this year to give the Hokies a better game.

Throughout the Hokies' pre-season the coaching staff has looked for a clear distinction between the success of Tyrod Taylor and Sean Glennon, the two candidates for the starting quarterback job. As recently as to date, nobody from the Hokie staff has indicated one to have the starting job over the other. They have kept the competition in the picture to motivate the two. Last season, after Taylor returned from a high ankle sprain, head coach Frank Beamer kept his cards close to the vest about who would play in which situations. For the most part, coaches and fans alike prefer to have a designated starting quarterback, but signs (until most recently with the redshirting of Taylor) have shown that we could see a similar approach to the QB spot again this season. Taylor was un-redshirted last season, and while the initial decision to do so in the begging of this season is also a good idea, I'm sure the coaching staff won't rule out un-redshirting him again if it mean competing for another ACC Championship. With a healthier offensive line and more experience, Glennon's opening day play should show improvement from last year's.

Moving on to the Hokies' opponents, the Pirates are hungry to improve their football program in performance, recognition, and stature. They have loaded their out of conference schedule this season with West Virginia, Virginia, NC State, and of course Virginia Tech. They are seeking to improve their program in a comparable way to the Hokies in late 80's and early 90's. And with Virginia Tech's loss of returning starters and some inexperience on both sides of the ball, ECU can smell blood in the water. The iron is hot for the Pirates to strike against an ACC championship winning school. If their coaching staff has studied the history of Virginia Tech football, they've determined most probably what they should: Virginia Tech has a track record of winning when they're not supposed to win and loosing when they aren't supposed to loose. Saturday's contest has all the elements for the latter to happen.

So what do the Hokies face on Saturday? On offense, the Pirates have two seniors and two juniors returning from last years team. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney threw for a 61% completion rate and a total of 1358 yards. 400 of those passing yards came in a single game against North Carolina last season leading the Pirates to at 34-31 win. He has demonstrated the poise and experience of a quarterback over the past season, and has an attitude of enthusiasm that he brings to the field. The ECU coaching staff thinks it's only a matter of time before his talent caches up with that attitude. In the running back position, ECU will have to turn to Brandon Simmons as the primary ball carrier after a knee injury sustained by Dominique Linday, the running back groomed to succeed Chris Johnson, who ran for 1423 yards last season. So the running game could be a weakness in the Pirate offense that the Hokies could exploit. Looking towards the ECU receiving, Jamar Bryant received for 704 yards last season and caught six touchdowns. Tight end Davon Drew caught for 579 yards last season with only two touchdowns. On the other side of the ball, ECU allowed a total of 3487 passing yards and 436 rushing yards. In spite of these numbers, holding Virginia Tech to only 17 points last year demonstrated how the ECU defense is capable of containing the Hokie offense, especially in light of the Hokie '07 season receiver core graduating.

The bottom line is that the Hokies have a tough opponent in front of them in Saturday's contest. ECU has their mouths watering for a victory against a high profile team like Virginia Tech, so the Hokies better have a new attitude after their Orange Bowl loss to Kansas, or they'll be dropping as the favorites to a team they have the favorability to beat.

Virginia Tech Hokies vs. ECU Pirates
Saturday, Aug. 30, 2008
Kickoff: 12 PM
Bank of America Stadium
Charlotte, N.C.

Let's go Hokies!

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