Virginia Tech is in a week of practice bookended by two opponents that come from the same state. The similarities between the two North Carolina schools, however, end there.
“No disrespect for Western Carolina, but I don’t think anyone is mistaking ECU for Western Carolina, just because they have beaten us in the past,” said senior defensive end James Gayle.
“They are definitely someone we need to be prepared for, or they will beat us.”
Some of the more veteran Hokies — like Gayle — are prepared to head down to Greenville, N.C. this weekend, remembering that 27-22 season opening loss to the Pirates in 2008. The then-No. 17 Hokies held a nine point lead heading into the final period of play before two ECU touchdowns with under four minutes remaining — the second coming off a blocked punt return with 1:52 left — knocked Tech out of the top 25.
“Five of our last seven games at East Carolina have been decided by seven points or less, so East Carolina is a dangerous team,” said head coach Frank Beamer.
“I think they’re sixth on the list there of non-BCS schools that have beaten BCS schools. Of course they’re getting ready to join the league that’s BCS too,” Beamer said. “They’ve got our attention and they’ve got our respect. They are a very, very explosive football team.”
The Pirates offensive attack, led by quarterback Shane Carden, operates a spread-offense at a rapid pace. The Pirates have put up 52 and 31 points in their two wins this season, and average 70 plays per game.
Alabama ran 62 plays against the Hokies and Western Carolina finished with just 54.
While Pirates fans are doing all they can to see that their winning streak — and Carden’s 79.7 completion percentage — continues, the Hokies have received some assistance from a higher power: mother nature.
Hokies defensive line coach Charley Wiles was thankful Tuesday that an incoming cold front would drop the temperature to around 75 degrees for game time.
“To be honest, I don’t like going down there to play them, just because it’s hot and it’s so high-tempo,” Gayle said.
With the temperature taken care of, the responsibility now falls on Gayle and the rest of the so-far-so-good Hokies defense to stop the Pirates.
“Quite frankly, this is probably their Super Bowl,” senior linebacker and captain Jack Tyler said. “I’m sure they have Virginia Tech circled. This is one of their rivalry games. It’s going to be a good atmosphere.”