Pirates blast Hokies early, then score late to win

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East Carolina’s Shane Carden scored on a QB keeper from one yard out with 16 seconds left, and East Carolina knocked off #17 Virginia Tech 28-21 in Blacksburg.

Virginia Tech fought back from an early 21-0 deficit against ECU to tie it up at 21 with 1:20 remaining, then gave up a 65-yard drive in just three plays to lose. After Cam Phillips caught an 18-yard TD pass from Michael Brewer to complete a stirring comeback, the Hokie defense, which hadn’t surrendered any points for over three quarters after a rocky start, collapsed and gave up the easy score.

After the tying score, ECU took possession on their 35-yard line and immediately hit a 31-yard pass to the Hokie 34. Tech committed a substitution infraction to move the ball to the 29, and Carden hit Cam Worthy on a slant pattern for a 28-yard gain down to the Hokie 1 yard line. Carden ran it in untouched from there over left tackle to complete the stunning win for the Pirates.

Carden completed 23-of-47 passes for 427 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions. ECU finished with 502 yards of offense, but until their final possession, had been bottled up for most of the second half. Tech held the Pirates to just 68 yards of offense in the second half, until the fateful final possession.

Tech’s Michael Brewer struggled for much of the day. He completed 30-of-56 for 298 yards and three TDs, but he also threw two interceptions, and the Hokie offense got off to a very slow start. Tech finished with 389 yards, but had just 14 yards and one first down in a critical first quarter that saw the Hokies fall behind by three scores.

ECU scored on three of their first four possessions to go up 21-0 with 2:44 left in the first quarter, and at the end of the quarter, ECU had outgained the Hokies 205 yards to 14. ECU’s scoring drives covered 20 total plays, 203 total yards, and took just 5:19 off the clock, as they simply blasted the Hokies early.

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“I think they just beat us on a couple of deep balls,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “I thought we had a chance to go up and get the interception, we were in pretty good shape. But again, give them credit. They got some receivers that go get it and that quarterback, I don’t think anyone throws it better than him. He put a lot of deep balls right on the money.”

“As good as we were last week playing the deep ball, we were equally as bad this week,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “We had a good game plan. We just couldn’t make a play on a deep ball all day. They had a freakish play on their first drive that got things going” — ECU’s Bryce Williams caught a tipped pass on third down and converted it to a first down — “then they made a couple big plays.”

Tech flirted with even more disaster for much of the second quarter. ECU spent a lot of time deep in Hokie territory, and Brewer threw both of his interceptions in the quarter. Brewer was sacked twice in the first quarter and was clearly rattled, making several bad throws in the first half, including the interceptions.

ECU drove deep into Tech territory early in the second quarter, then went for it on fourth and two from the Tech 11 yard line and threw incomplete.

Three plays later, Brewer threw an interception that Josh Hawkins returned from the Tech 28 to the 24. On the very next play, Carden scrambled inside the Tech five-yard line, but backup defensive end Dwayne Alford knocked the ball loose from behind, and Kendall Fuller recovered at the Tech one-yard line.

Two plays later, Brewer threw another interception to Hawkins, who returned it from the 18 to the Tech 11.

“Obviously, we had to figure out a way to eliminate those turnovers,” Brewer said. “I know one of them was just an uncharacteristic throw, throwing back across my body on a scramble trying to make something happen when I should’ve just thrown it away. Second one, I thought the DB made a good play. I was a little bit late on the throw. Then again, that’s a credit to their defense.”

An ECU holding penalty on the play pushed the ball back to the 21-yard line, and ECU eventually missed a 37-yard field goal wide right.

Having weathered the storm, the Hokies finally got on the board with an 8-play, 73-yard drive late in the second quarter. Sam Rogers had a 50-yard touchdown catch and run called back when replay ruled that he stepped out of bounds on the 34-yard line. A few plays later, Isaiah Ford made a tough, 21-yard TD catch that stood up after replay review. It was 21-7, ECU, with 47 seconds left, and that was the score at half time.

“The fact of the matter,” offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler said of the slow start, “is we should have put this game away in the first half and we didn’t.”

For much of the second half, the Hokie defense throttled the ECU offense. In the third quarter, Tech ran 23 plays to ECU’s 8 and outgained the Pirates 78-13. Neither team could scratch on the scoreboard, however.

With 5:22 to go in the third, the Hokies embarked on a monster 15-play, 69-yard drive that lasted 7:31 and extended into the fourth quarter, but it came up empty. Facing fourth and goal from the ECU two-yard line, Frank Beamer elected to go for it, but there was a communication breakdown between Brewer and his receivers, and Brewer threw to an empty spot in the back of the end zone, turning it over on downs with 12:51 left.

The Hokies later drove 80 yards in 12 plays and scored on a 15-yard touchdown catch by Isaiah Ford, who struggled with drops on the day. Ford was wide open, and with 6:31 left, he secured the easy catch and it was 21-14, Pirates.

Tech’s defense got another stop, and the Hokies took over with 4:57 left on the 50. Brewer completed a five-yard pass to Ford on fourth and three, but a holding call on Laurence Gibson wiped out the play, and Tech chose to punt on fourth and 13 with 3:40 left.

After another three and out by ECU, in which the Hokies spent their remaining two timeouts, Tech took possession on the ECU 47 with 2:15 left, after a 23-yard punt return by Greg Stroman.

The Hokies scored easily, going 47 yards in six plays in 55 seconds. Brewer hit a wide-open Cam Phillips for an 18-yard tying score with 1:20 to go, and Lane Stadium was bedlam.

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But in a harbinger of things to come, Joey Slye kicked the ball out of bounds, and ECU took over on their 35. Three plays later, the Hokies had suffered a crushing defeat after Carden’s one-yard run.

“I don’t like kicking it out of bounds and giving them field position to start with and I don’t like having too many guys on the field,” Beamer said. “I don’t like that one bit. They were good and we helped them.”

After starting out 5-of-16 for 59 yards and two interceptions, Brewer collected himself and went 25-of-40 for 239 yards and three touchdowns.

“I thought he finished strong,” Beamer said of Brewer. “I thought there were some plays in the first half he’d like to have back. I thought the important thing was he finished strong and brought us back and tied the game up.”

“(There’s) really no excuse,” Brewer said of his early struggles, “other than that they outplayed us in the first half. (In the second half) We were just able to get into a rhythm … I thought we were a lot better on first and second down, setting up some third-and-shorts. We just got into a better rhythm in the second half.”

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Were the Hokies suffering a post-Ohio State hangover? Was the slow start due to too much reveling in the OSU win?

“I’m not going to make that excuse,” Beamer said. “I thought we were ready to play. We understood exactly how East Carolina was going to play. It wasn’t secret … It just wasn’t a good start. I thought we had all the respect in the world for East Carolina. We knew what kind of team they were, and they just did a great job.”

Willie Byrn added, “That was one thing that we preached to our guys all week, was not taking a step back and not doing the thing that we did last year, which was play great one week and then fall down the next week.”

Isaiah Ford: “We didn’t (let down) at all. Our coaches prepared us. We knew what time it was. We knew how good they were, and so we didn’t overlook them. They just pretty much outplayed us.”

Chase Williams: “Honestly, the only thing that was going on was they were making good plays. The quarterback was putting the ball where the receivers can go get it and that’s exactly what their receivers were doing.”

If anything can be taken away from a game that started out as an epic disaster, it’s the resilience the Hokie players showed in mounting the comeback.

“It’s a terrible feeling to lose a game you should win,” Loeffler said. “But hopefully this is a great learning experience, and all our young guys rally together and get this thing right.”

“I give our kids credit,” Beamer said. “We got down and never once did we panic. We hung in there and gave ourselves a chance to win. I really do believe we can learn from it and be better. Last week I thought our potential was good, and this week I felt our potential was good.

“I’m more convinced than ever that we can really be a good football team.”

Postgame notes, courtesy Virginia Tech Athletics Communications

• Nigel Williams made his first collegiate start, coming in place of Corey Marshall (ankle) at defensive tackle. Tech opened in a nickel package with Chuck Clark getting a start as an extra defensive back.

• East Carolina scored 14 points in the first quarter, marking the first time the Pirates have scored 14 points in the first stanza against Tech since 1990 when the Pirates would go on to lose 24-23 in Greenville.

• The only other time the Hokies gave up 21 points in the first quarter under Frank Beamer came in 2006 to Georgia Tech, a 38-27 loss. The Hokies had never trailed 21-0 after one quarter under Beamer prior to today.

•The last opposing quarterback to throw for three touchdown passes in a game was E.J. Manuel of Florida State in 2012. ECU’s Shane Carden had three touchdown passes in the game.

• Isaiah Ford caught his second collegiate touchdown late in the first half to extend Virginia Tech’s ACC- and school-record scoring streak to 246 games. It’s the fifth-longest active streak in the FBS and the 11th-longest streak in FBS history. Ford finished with two touchdowns in the game, giving him three for the season.

• Ricky Walker became the 11th true freshman to play this year, tying the most under head coach Frank Beamer (last year).

• Ten of the first 13 touchdowns on the season have been scored by freshmen (11 of 13 by underclassmen).

• Shane Carden attempted 47 passes in the game. The last opposing quarterback to attempt 40 or more passes in a game against Tech was Rakeem Cato of Marshall last year (41). The last quarterback or team to throw for 400 or more yards against Tech was Syracuse’s Troy Nunes, who passed for 403 yards in 2002.

• The 427 yards passing allowed are the fourth-most by a Tech defense under head coach Frank Beamer.

• The 440 yards of total offense by Carden is the third-most by a single player against Tech under Beamer. Maryland’s Scott Milanovich had 503 yards of total offense in 1993.

• The 224 yards receiving by ECU’s Cam Worthy are the third-most by a Tech opponent in school history. Syracuse’s David Tyree had 229 yards against the Hokies in 2002 and Ron Sellers of Florida State also had 229 yards, his coming in 1967.

• Saturday marked just the 15th time under Beamer that an opposing offense recorded 500 or more yards of total offense. The last team to do that was North Carolina in 2012 (533).

• True freshmen Isaiah Ford and Cam Phillips combined to catch 14 passes and three touchdowns Saturday.

• Defensive end Ken Ekanem had a career-high 3.5 tackles for loss.

Box Score (hokiesports.com)

Jacob Emert contributed to this story

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38 Responses You are logged in as Test

  1. Frank may like noon games, but he sure can’t seem to motivate his team for the noon games. (I know TV dictates game time, but Frank has said he doesn’t like sitting around all day) Why does he like them so much? So he can eat dinner early?

  2. Our youth and inexperience showed up this game – we will get better. However, I believe that when the QB is throwing a high, floating jump ball that our DBs should be told to turn their heads so they can find the ball and go for it. It looked like several of those balls were under thrown and could have been intercepted. GO HOKIES

    1. Agree. Would have liked to see the DB’s turn and battle for the ball more. I thought they could have had a good chance at intercepting a lot of those passes had they done that.

  3. Well you have to give this Tech team credt…all three phases of the game (offense, defense and special teams) broke down at one time or another. And don’t forget the coaches (they are ultimately responsible…despite what Foster says). Add them up and what do you get? Another disappointing loss to a team that Tech should have beaten. How does Tech ever expect to rise to the “elite” level when it continues to lose to teams that it should beat. You have to learn to “take care of business” instead of playing down to your opponent’s level. Something Tech has done for 20+ years. Heart breaking….

    1. Looking way back, Florida State (Bobby Bowden era) and others successfully used a similar passing approach against our DB on an island defense. When opposing QBs release very high passes to a spot down field, our DBs have to cover their man 5 to 6 seconds before the ball arrives (assume 2 seconds for Qb release and 3 to 4 seconds in the air). Then the ball arrives to a big receiver at an extremely high angle. DB can read receiver eyes, but turning and looking up at that angle is doubly difficult. Plus note how many times the receiver got to the spot first, turned facing the QB and caught the ball at the top of his jump like proper basketball rebounding.

      The cover time required and the severe angle of the ball trajectory make the DB’s job nearly impossible particularly when giving away inches in height.

      Decent comeback considering number of errors on both sides of the ball.

      1. VTBall–I’m talking about the Foster quote in the article:

        “As good as we were last week playing the deep ball, we were equally as bad this week,” defensive coordinator Bud Foster said. “We had a good game plan. We just couldn’t make a play on a deep ball all day.”

        Sounds like he is throwing his players under the bus to me. Maybe he should consider that his scheme for OSU (with a weak offensive line and a r-freshman QB starting his 2nd game) might not work against ECU (with a 5th year QB, good OL and excellent receivers). That’s coaching.

    2. “playing down to opponent’s level” ??? ECU was playing at a very high level on Saturday. They picked our defendse apart, and threw up a stout defense too. For crying out loud, give ECU credit.

      1. Ok JB, then tell me…if Tech had played at the level against ECU as they did against OSU, would the Hokies have won? The point is, Tech is the better team (they proved what they are capable of at the Horseshoe last week). Yet we seem incapable of playing at a high level every week (like the “elite” teams do). And this is to say nothing about laying eggs against teams like Temple, JMU, MD (last year), etc., etc., etc., That’s what I’m talking about.

        1. I’m sure that you have noticed that parity in college football has made it possible for most any team to rise up and smite a “name” team. Fortunes rise and fall as the talent level waxes and wanes. Look at big time programs like Texas, Tennessee, and Florida that have disappeared from the rankings. ECU is either one of the best teams we will play this year, or they were extremely lucky. I think it was the former. Let’s stop insisting that the only way for Tech to lose is if the coaches or players do a bad job. It’s college football. Every week, HALF of the teams lose.

  4. Well that was quick visit to the top 25.
    Our offense looked terrible. I can understand the d having a tough day against a sr qb who was sharp and in sync with his receivers, but the ecu d abused our offensive line, they looked completely overmatched. VT is lucky the score wasn’t worse, could have easily been 35-7 at the half

  5. We got beat by a very good ECU team which executed. No need to blame coaches or players. Our guys deserve a lot of credit for digging themselves out of a 21-0 hole. It’s college football. Enjoy it. Now on to GT.

  6. The comment “we should have put it away in the first half” is amazing. What game was he watching? Maybe he meant ECU should have put it away in the first half? We were lucky they didn’t score more with all the opportunities they had. I was waiting for the next comment to be “we were a couple plays away.” Being a Tech fan is the biggest tease as one week you feel like we turn a corner and the next we get outplayed and hope for a miraculous comeback to win games.

  7. Six days of celebration, and no mental prep. I hope this was a learning experience. As I said last week, that/this game is over…GT is next, and the only thing they should be focused on. Failing to prepare, is preparing to fail.

  8. Does anyone else see the problem that none of our db’s ever turn there heads to locate the football with the exception of maybe Kendall and the bad thing about all of the long passes is they were defense-able if the db would have just located the ball while it was in the air. It seems to be something that’s not even been corrected because it’s happen in all three games and I guess no one on the coaching staff sees it.

    1. I can’t speak to Torrian’s coaching style/approach, but db’s not turning around has been the Hokie D’s m.o. for over a decade. I believe the idea is that you read the receiver’s eyes and try to disrupt the catch. You might get beat for a 35yd pass, but there will be no YAC. Let the D clean up after that, but you save a TD (even though you give up the long ball). It’s been a pretty successful approach so I can’t argue with it. Today, they just hit on most of them in the first half (and the one at the end).

      1. Hit the nail on the head. Remember Clark getting beat twice in the OSU game? He makes the quick tackle and despite the big gains there is no score. The defense is predicated on the offense being forced to make sustained drives under pressure. Good, experienced QBs are few and far between and are about the only way to consistently outmatch Foster’s D. That being said, the final 3 play 65 yard drive was…not supposed to… Should have been impossible…

  9. ACC Coastal is our top priority. It is essential our defense adjusts for GT and shake this loss off. Equally, the offensive line needs to be shaken up. After 3 games of evidence, our middle continues to get pushed around. It’s time to start playing Teller, Hudson and Smith with some meaningful playing time. Also think some extra practice w/ the receivers catching the football would be beneficial to ensure our heads are in the future games. This loss was a wake up call, something build upon prior to ACC action. Heads up Hokies and let’s plan on taking our frustration out on the Yellow Jackets!!!

  10. Until the 4th quarter, I was really thinking this was going to be the worst feeling beatdown I could remember. Even worse than the LSU thrashing, because at least LSU was the best team in the country that year. Still, this was a thorough thrashing as well, and it makes me totally re-think what this team is capable of this year.

    That being said, I agree with ABSS Hokie 86 and Thumper’s comments that there are some positives to take away. We have to remember that this is a REALLY young team. I was proud to see them make a strong comeback effort after being emasculate in the first quarter. And let’s give ECU credit, they have a lot of players who would start for us.

  11. I remember the scouting report on ECU’s qb questioned his arm strength. That might still be true but he has the touch with the deep ball. I am a big Brewer fan, but today we have to tip our cap to that 6’2 220 lb 5th yr sr from ECU. He played a hell of a game.

    1. Disagree about lack of motivation or preparation. There is almost no defense against a great passer on his game and some great receivers who will fight for the ball. ECU put on a clinic in the 1st quarter. They played a good game and deserved the win.

  12. I’m not there with Brewer. He has trouble seeing over the line, showed some happy feet back there today and doesn’t have the arm strength. Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate his grit demonstrated the last two weeks but his size and skill will only get us so far. Hope SL is getting Andrew Ford coached up for next year.

    1. I listened to Brewer in the post game show. The guy is mature and a leader. Yes he made mistakes today, but heck, he made mistakes last week. I would like to know how many passes were dropped and how many routes were run incorrectly today.

    2. Getting laid out every play will give you happy feet. Brewer is exactly what this team needs. More worrisome is our continued issue of not being able to run.

    3. History has shown that a 6′-6″ quarterback has difficulty when his OL is sitting in his lap all day. What happened, after all of the great OL play we saw in Columbus?

    4. You have lost your mind if you are calling for Ford already. Brewer is a player and stats would have been much better had it not been for 5 or 6 drops.

  13. Nice work Will, like you said to bad it comes with a loss. About the game I saw lot’s of things to like about the future and I think Cam Phillips needs to start too. I was pleased to see Ekanem have a good game but we missed Corey Marshall on the inside of the line. If the tipped pass early had been incomplete or a VT interception it could have been a different game. I’m not as upset as I would have been over a loss a few years ago. I half expected this because ECU is good and Carden is a fine passer. I was thinking 2-1 at this point but had the games reversed!

  14. Wow. Beamer says we got beat on a “couple deep passes”….a COUPLE!??

    And Lefty says we shoulda put it away in the first half!? Is he crazy? We were getting crushed in the first half and were in no position all game to “put them away”.

    What a joke of comments.

    1. I think it’s clear what Lefty really meant with that comment. He wasn’t saying that we were in a position to put the game away in the first half. He meant that we had the ability to put them away if we had played better in the first half. If we had played as well in the first half as we did in the second, we would have won easily.

  15. Very painful to watch that final ECU drive! It appeared our coaches and players were not at all engaged….kickoff out of bounds, burned on 2 passes and 2 consecutive illegal substitution penalties and finished off by QB going untouched into endzone!

    Other pain pills:
    1.Ghost of Curt Newsome haunts us…O-line very poor in run blocking forcing us to become one dimensional.
    2. Way too many dropped balls by receivers.
    3. Very curious call on the 4th and goal throwing to Ryan Malleck who clearly had injured knee versus throwing to Bucky into the corner of endzone with one on one match up with much smaller DB!

    Postives:
    1. Very young team fought back and tied game after horrific start!
    2. Brewer is a gunslinger and good leader on the field.
    3. Loved seeing sideline shot of OL coach Stacy Searels lighting up the O-line! Good to see someone on the O coaching staff on the sideline matching Bud’s intensity.
    4. If run blocking can get corrected both Shai and Marshawn will bring much needed balance to O! Think both are real deal talent!

    Let’s bring focus to GT game next week! Go Hokies!

    1. I thought Marshawn came close to breaking a couple of touches today. I like this team. They are young but tough and a don’t give up attitude.

    2. Pain pill #4: lots of missed tackles that could have taken a decent chunk away from ECU’s total yardage.

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