Misfires sink Pirates ship against Tech
Posted September 14, 2013
Updated September 15, 2013
It was there for the taking, and the Pirates knew it. East Carolina had several chances to knock off Virginia Tech in Greenville for the first in a generation, they just couldn't drive the stake through the Hokies' heart. In what had the potential to be a signature win for head coach Ruffin McNeill and a chance to vault into the AP or USA Today Top 25, ECU came up short in a game that was very "un-ECU-like."
Two weeks after surrendering nearly 500 yards of offense against Old Dominion, the Pirates cracked the whip on defense, containing one of the ACC's top gunslingers in Logan Thomas. Running back Trey Edmunds was a non-factor, averaging only two yards per carry after toting the rock 21 times.
However, the offense was equally as night-and-day as their first two efforts. Shane Carden threw for 638 yards and seven scores against ODU and FAU, but struggled after a promising start. In an aggressive move, ECU won the coin toss, elected to receive, and marched straight down the field, capping a five-play, 75 yard drive with a Carden-to-Bryce Williams touchdown toss. It took only 99 seconds and looked effortless. However, it was far from a harbinger of what the rest of the afternoon had in store. Receivers struggled against Tech's secondary to create much space downfield and as a result, Carden completed only three passes of 10 yards or longer following that opening possession. Justin Hardy had six receptions, but finished with only 31 yards receiving to his name. For a program in which "passing is not a hobby, it's a way of life," those numbers make for difficult living. Toss in three turnovers and a safety into the mix, and that equals one cocktail no team would want to chug.
Still, East Carolina found itself with plenty of chances late in the ballgame thanks to a less-than-memorable day from Virginia Tech's Cody Journell. Kickers never get much love to begin with, but Hopkins won't exactly be strutting around the student center in Blacksburg come Monday. Journell shanks an extra point, two field goal tries, and a third that was negated by a running into the kicker penalty. By that point, Frank Beamer had seen enough to hedge his bets on converting a fourth-and-1 then attempt a 27-yarder. If you listened closely, you could practically hear the Peyton Manning impressions from a state away:
Following the contest, the Pirates all seemed to think their good special teams fortunes were serendipitous. No one had any doubt that they could knock off an ACC team in their house, time just ran out. They may have had a few more minutes in the fourth quarter to make that happen, if not for possibly the only shortcoming on an otherwise stellar defensive day. Thomas extended two late game drives, taking costly ticks off the clock with four third down and one fourth down conversion. As Teddy KBG might say, "those kids have alligator blood."
Disappointing in a sense that ECU wasn't just playing to "hang around" with an ACC team, but encouraging for coach McNeill that despite down some stalwarts due to injury, the defense passed an early season exam with flying colors. The Pirates will not face a quarterback the quality of Logan Thomas in their entire conference slate, with the possible exception of Marshall's Rakeem Cato, who is part of a juggernaut Thundering Herd offense that will live and die by the shootout. Hardy, Carden and company will get back on track and if the defense can steadily apply pressure like they did on Saturday afternoon, there's no reason to believe that ECU shouldn't be able to contend for a league crown in its final year in the C-USA.
Currently listening to: Twenty One Pilots - "Holding on to You"