A familiar foe returns to Blacksburg on Saturday. The Pirates from East Carolina are looking for their third-straight victory over the Hokies and seventh straight against the ACC. Virginia Tech is 13–7 against them all-time. Due to the Hokies' impressive win last week, there is more buzz surrounding the game this weekend. Tech is looking to start the year 3–1 for the first time since 2013. A win would also give the Hokies more consideration for a top 25 ranking as they already got one vote this past week.
East Carolina opened its season with a 52-point performance against Western Carolina and a 33–30 win over NC State to get its first-year head coach Scottie Montgomery off to a 2–0 start.
Last week, the Pirates traveled to South Carolina to play the Gamecocks. The offense put up 519 yards but only 15 points in a 20–15 loss. The Pirates are averaging 33.3 points per game and rank seventh in the nation in total yards.
The passing game is led by quarterback Philip Nelson. The senior has gotten off to a great start, completing 78.9 percent of his passes. Nelson has already thrown for over 1,000 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Hokies' defense has been fantastic, allowing an average of 205 yards a game, but they’ll have to watch out for multiple playmakers including wide receiver Zay Jones who is averaging 11.4 yards a catch and 147.7 yards a game. Bud Foster’s defense is only allowing 80.3 yards a game through the air. How the Hokies react against a talented passing attack might be the biggest thing to watch for on Saturday.
The Hokies will also have to stop James Summers, who tore the defense apart when the Pirates came to Blacksburg a year ago. The dual-threat quarterback scored three touchdowns and put up 279 yards of offense to lead East Carolina to a 35–28 win. This year Summers has rushed for 207 yards and taken a back seat to Nelson in the passing game, but still expect the Pirates to use Summers to mix things up.
Jerod Evans, who is coming off of his best start against Boston College, will try to keep the offense going. After accounting for five touchdowns against the Eagles, the JUCO transfer will face a defense that currently ranks 72nd in the nation. The Pirates are giving up an average of 378 yards a game while the Hokies' offense is averaging 445 yards per game.
Virginia Tech has done a good job this year with finding balance. Whether it’s throwing the ball or keeping it on the ground, Tech is averaging over 200 yards a game in both of those categories. That’ll be key against a defense which has struggled at times.
The Hokies have gotten out to a fast start in the first quarter of every game this season, outscoring their opposition 35–6 in that period. Evans and company will need that same start on Saturday if they want to take the Pirates out of rhythm. Keeping the East Carolina offense off the field will play a large role in that.
East Carolina isn’t given the respect it should be by many in the college football world. Tech’s head coach Justin Fuente has been careful not to underestimate the Pirates.
“We know what’s happened the last two years. I can assure you East Carolina has the full respect of all our players,” Fuente said.
My prediction is Virginia Tech: 42, East Carolina: 27