ECU Monday Thoughts: Hokies Get Back on Track

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As
I noted in my pre-game comments, the Hokies hadn’t lost three in a row since
2003, so had they dropped this one, it would have been ominous and unpleasant,
to say the least. Thankfully, the guys got the ship turned in the right
direction, as we saw the return of two Virginia Tech traditional staples: the
game-changing big play and the avalanche of points.

As unpredictable as these Hokies are so far this year, this one actually did
go like I pictured. ECU had some offensive success (361 yards, 27 points), and
for a while, this game was a shootout, but eventually the Hokies got their feet
under them, made some plays, and pulled away.

ECU’s offensive success was not a surprise. Teams that run a fast-paced
offensive system that features the short passing game are going to have success
against most defenses, particularly young defenses like Tech’s. ECU’s program
emphasizes offense, and the Hokies got a big dose of it.

Tech countered ECU’s system by playing a nickel package (five defensive backs
instead of four) the entire game. Cornerback Jayron Hosley was suspended for the
game for a violation of team rules, so true freshman Kyle Fuller, a baller in
the making, got the start. Not redshirt-junior Cris Hill; true freshman Kyle
Fuller. That’s an 18-year-old starting over a 21-year-old.

The nickel was created by starting a redshirt freshman, safety Antone Exum,
over whip linebacker Jeron Gouveia-Winslow. While the decision to sit JGW might
seem like a result of his rough game against JMU, the need for a nickel
alignment against ECU was probably a bigger factor.

If you’re keeping track, that means that the Hokies started two freshmen in
the defensive backfield, plus a free safety (Eddie Whitley) who was starting
just his third game at the position. A sophisticated passing offense is going to
have some success against those young players.

At one point in the game, the Hokies had five freshmen on the field on
defense: Exum and Fuller,

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