It wasn’t a pretty game, but it counts in the win column. Virginia Tech’s usually stout defense overcame a rough day for Cody Journell , and the Hokies beat East Carolina 15-10 in Greenville on Saturday afternoon.
Journell missed field goals of 38 and 40 yards, as well as an extra point. He also missed a shorter field goal later in the game, but it was wiped out because of a running into the kicker penalty. Coming into Saturday, Journell had never missed more than one field goal during a game, but his struggles against ECU nearly cost the Hokies.
However, the defense was there to pick up the slack. After allowing a touchdown on ECU’s opening possession, Bud Foster’s group tightened up. The held the Pirates to just 204 yards of total offense – the fifth consecutive opponent that they have held to 217 yards or less. They also sacked quarterback Shane Carden seven times, intercepted him three more times, and sacked him for a safety with under two minutes remaining to ice the game.
Many Tech defenders recorded tackles for loss, sacks and interceptions…
As an offense, East Carolina averaged just 3.8 yards per play. After their initial touchdown on the opening drive, the Hokies allowed only a field goal on a possession that began at the Tech 36 yard line. They gave up 75 yards and seven points on that first possession, but just 129 yards and three points the rest of the way.
Defensively, the Pirates used a gameplan that you can expect other opponents to adopt throughout the season. They stacked the box to take away the run, and forced the Hokies to beat them through the air. Brent Benedict got the start at right tackle over Laurence Gibson , and Andrew Miller missed quite a bit of practice this week with an ankle sprain, and the Tech running game didn’t have much luck. The Hokies ran for just 53 yards on 34 carries.
The Tech passing game showed improvements against ECU, with Logan Thomas going 25-of-43 for 258 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception. He completed 58.1% of his passes, which he only did twice all of last season. His interception was yet again on a deep ball to Demitri Knowles , who failed to be physical and prevent the defensive back from making a play.
Other than that play, Knowles was much improved against ECU. Here’s how the receiving numbers looked…
Demitri Knowles : 8 catches, 99 yards, 1 TD
Willie Byrn : 7 catches, 63 yards
D.J. Coles : 3 catches, 39 yards, 1 TD
Joshua Stanford : 3 catches, 26 yards
Trey Edmunds : 2 catches, 20 yards
Chris Mangus : 1 catch, 7 yards
Kalvin Cline : 1 catch, 4 yards
There were still a few drops by the wide receivers, but on the whole the passing game took a step forward against East Carolina.
Logan Thomas threw a 30 yard touchdown pass to Demitri Knowles in the first quarter to tie the game at seven, and he later hit D.J. Coles in the back of the endzone on a three yard strike to cap a 10 play, 75 yard drive. That put Tech up 13-10 in the third quarter, but then Cody Journell ‘s struggles began.
Journell missed an extra point that would have made the score 14-10. After an interception by Brandon Facyson , the offense was held to a three and out, and Journell pushed a 38 yard field goal to the right. After a three and out by ECU, the Tech offense promptly marched down the field and into Pirate territory, but Journell badly pulled a 40 yard attempt to the left.
A Tariq Edwards interception on the next ECU drive gave the Hokies the ball at the Pirate 49. Tech drove to the ECU 15, and on fourth and six Journell missed a 32 yard field goal partly because of a high snap. However, the ECU defense ran into him, and the five yard penalty made it fourth and one at the 10.
At that point Frank Beamer didn’t seem to trust Journell. He elected to run a quarterback sneak for the first down, but it was stuffed. ECU took over at their own 10 yard line with 2:11 to play, and that’s when the Tech defense iced the game.
On the first play of ECU’s drive, Tariq Edwards and Derrick Hopkins combined to sack Shane Carden for a six yard loss. On the next play, James Gayle soundly beat the right tackle to hit Carden from the blindside. Carden fumbled in the endzone, and ECU was able to fall on the football for a safety. The Pirates had to kickoff to the Hokies, and their onside kick went out of bounds, and the Virginia Tech offense was able to run out the clock.
The Tech defense was dominant as usual, and Logan Thomas and his receivers took a step forward. However, the offense and special teams still left points on the board. Virginia Tech got three interceptions in ECU territory, and failed to convert the opportunities into any points. Had they managed to convert any of those turnovers into points, their win would have been much more comfortable.
The Hokies will return to action next Saturday when they host Marshall in Lane Stadium. Kickoff is scheduled for noon, and the game will be televised by either ESPNU, ESPNews, or ESPN3.