I don't know what some folks are talking about. After briefly discussing the game with MadJay and seeing comments from Illinois Hokie, I was expecting to see more dropped balls than orientation day at Carrot Top's Juggling School For The Blind. I just didn't see it.
As a side note, I didn't get to watch the game live but watched it Saturday evening after the awesome Notre Lame loss.
First off, I wish the coverage wasn't pushed back due to the Iowa State and Iowa game going to triple overtime. I missed what I think is three drives plus a bit of the fourth. In those drives, I only noticed two incomplete passes in the play-by-play.
Second, thank you, thank you, thank you and another thank you to the defense. This game could have been pretty ugly and, with the offense struggling, the defense answered the call. Five sacks, nine tackles for losses, and countless hurry-ups caused Dominique Davis and the East Carolina offense 92 negative yards. With that, the Pirates netted -15 yards on the ground. Through the air, Davis barely managed to break 127 yards. The coverage (for the most part) was phenomenal. There were a few dropped balls by ECU receivers that could have caused problems. Overall, this was one of the best defensive performance that I have seen in a long time. (Again, I didn't see the touchdown drive.)
A last note about the defense is that they actually committed five of the twelve penalties the Hokies accumulated in the game. Two pass interference calls (one of which was bogus), and four offsides (one of which was declined.) I want to speak more on the penalties in a bit.
Notable offensive accomplishments include Jarrett Boykin becoming the all-time Tech leader in receptions with 129 receptions. The previous record of 126 was held by Ernest Wilford.
Boykin finished with four receptions which was half of the total eight receptions (two by Danny Coale, and one by David Wilson and Marcus Davis respectively.) These eight came off of 20 attempts by Logan Thomas. He also threw four passes that should have been intercepted (one of which was.) This leaves eight incomplete passes to which one could refer to in discussing whether the receivers were to blame for the poor passing performance.
The first of these (that I was able to see) was during Tech's second drive. After two excellent completions, Thomas tossed one up in the end zone to Danny Coale. Emmanuel Davis covered the route well and as Coale caught the ball he managed to strip the ball out of Coale's hands. This was just good defense. One could argue that Coale should have been able to fight off the strip, but I'll leave that to you.
On Tech's third drive, Marcus Davis had to adjust to a ball that was behind him. Derek Blacknall did well to knock it out of Davis's hands with his helmet. I think we have the same situation here by which I mean one could say it was good defense or just sloppy ball handling.
In the third quarter, a pass to DJ Coles was super low on 2nd and 8. This one was clearly not his fault. The following 3rd and 8 play had Thomas throwing to Boykin. This was the first pass that I saw that was completely the fault of the receiver. Boykin should have caught this ball and, had he done so, he had a clear lane for some serious yardage.
Thomas was visibly uncomfortable in the passing game. Coach Mike O'Cain obviously noticed this and the play calling became extremely one dimensional. The running game did have success. David Wilson ran for 138 yards, Thomas for 66 and Josh Oglesby for 46. Oglesby scored both of Tech's touchdowns. Wilson had his second 100+ yard game on his way to his goal of 1,700 yards for the season. The most impressive thing about all of these runs was the yards after contact. All three runners bulldozed their way past one, two, even three would be tacklers. A lot of this is due to the shear size and athletic ability discrepancies between Tech and ECU.
The coaches realized that they were not prepared and went back to what they know best: power football that wears down your opponent. This works well when you're facing lesser opponents that will, in fact, tire from such a constant assault. Coach Frank Beamer knew that this was not a well prepared for game and even offered an apology, "Mentally, we were just not where we need to be, and that's my fault."
Another problem area was Beamer's baby: special teams. We already knew the Hokies would struggle in the kicking game. Punter Scott Dempler started things out with a short punt that gave the Pirates key field position that led to the Pirates only touchdown. Cody Journell failed to hit a field goal from 30 yards, though he later made up for it by hitting one from 39 yards. But the real problem was when receiving the ball.
Many poor decisions were made in returns. Jayron Hosley returned punts for 3, fumbled (and recovered) his second while the Hokies received a block in the back penalty, and ran backwards 12 yards on yet another.
And lastly, let's address the penalties. The Hokies doubled the average yards the Hokies were penalized in 2010. This was also more yards in penalties at 92 than yards passing at 91. Twelve penalties is also twice the average number of penalties in 2010. These penalties came at some crucial moments. An offsides penalty that offset an interception, another with a third down incomplete pass, three false starts on third and manageable distances, and a [BS] pass interference on an interception all gave ECU more life than they deserved.
Overall, the Hokies were lucky to walk out of Greenville with a Frank Beamer's 200th win. There are a significant number of things to address before the Arkansas State game if the Hokies want to continue to win.