Virginia Tech Football: East Carolina Q&A

Insight on East Carolina from a Pirates' beat writer.

Scottie Montgomery greets the press. [East Carolina Athletics]

A week after their 49-0 thrashing of Boston College, the Hokies welcome East Carolina to Blacksburg for an important non-conference showdown. The Pirates, winners of 6 straight against ACC foes, look to rebound from a 20-15 loss to South Carolina, one that could have ended far differently if not for four East Carolina turnovers.

To get an update on the Pirates ahead of this weekend's matchup, I spoke to Nathan Summers of Greenville's The Daily Reflector.

JC: East Carolina ruffled some feathers last offseason with the sudden dismissal of head coach Ruffin McNeill. How surprised were you by the decision, and what were your thoughts on the Scottie Montgomery hire?

NS: Like most people, I was very surprised to see McNeill let go after the landmark winning seasons the three previous years. It had a considerable impact on the players, but the Montgomery effect was immediate. His no-nonsense, professional style has rubbed off and players have admitted it has impacted them positively.

JC: While Virginia Tech holds the advantage in this non-conference series as a whole, the Pirates have bested the Hokies each of the past two years. From an outsider's perspective, it feels like the East Carolina fanbase (and potentially the program itself) views this matchup as somewhat of a rivalry game. Would you agree with that sentiment? Where do you think this game ranks annually in terms of significance for East Carolina?

NS: Because of ECU's six-game winning streak against the ACC heading into this game, that makes it especially big for fans. In terms of the long-term perception, it seems ECU fans view it as a rivalry because it's a game against a Power Five opponent, but also because of the number of meetings (21 as of Saturday), the seven ECU wins in the series and the fact the teams have played eight times since 2007. It still pales in comparison to the in-state games against N.C. State and UNC in terms of passion.

JC: After a disappointing 2015 season, the Pirates seem to be back on the right track this fall with an early victory over NC State and a narrow defeat to South Carolina. What were your expectations for this Pirates team heading into the year, and how have they changed after three weeks?

NS: I think the expectations have not changed much. I looked at this year's team as very capable of playing in a bowl game and that seems very likely, with perhaps potential to be one of the contenders in the American Athletic Conference's East Division. Better execution at the goal line would have likely seen a 3-0 team coming to Blacksburg this weekend.

JC: Dual-threat quarterback James Summers gave Bud Foster's defense fits a season ago with his mobility, but former Minnesota signal-caller Philip Nelson has since taken over the starting job in Greenville. How do the two quarterbacks differ, and what's been your assessment of Nelson thus far?

NS: Summers has been even better this season under first-year offensive coordinator Tony Petersen. He has been given a unique role, taking on small parts as a QB, running back and receiver each week. His two touchdown runs against the Wolfpack were the difference in the game, and many of the team's read-option plays rely on his versatility. Nelson has been mostly as advertised, a strong thrower with good presence who has embraced a major leadership role on the team.

JC: Zay Jones recorded a mind-boggling 22 receptions last week against the Gamecocks, just one grab shy of matching the single-game FBS record. What makes Jones so dangerous?

NS: Jones' athleticism is unmatched on the team, and his will to win might be as well. He refused to say much of anything about his performance following last Saturday's game, only that it wasn't enough in the team's loss to the Gamecocks. The new coaching staff has moved him from his traditional inside slot role to the outside Z position, and Jones has not skipped a beat, serving as a constant sideline threat on downfield throws while still being very much involved on slants.

JC: How has the defense changed in Greenville since the arrival of new coordinator Kenwick Thompson? Do you expect improvement from a unit that struggled at times in 2015?

NS: This defense blitzes a good deal more than those of the last few years, though the Pirates still have just one sack to show for it through three games. The secondary is young but talented with sophomore Corey Seargent and freshman Colby Gore manning the main cornerback roles. Up front, outside linebackers Yiannis Bowden and Dayon Pratt play more like defensive ends on most plays with a nickel secondary behind them.

JC: Time to put you on the spot: who wins Saturday, and why?

NS: Virginia Tech in a close one, due mainly to the Hokies' running game and home crowd.

Comments

They may have Zay, but we've got Mook. Time to take care of business for the ACC and end the 6 game streak.

Don't worry, ECU fans. This series pales in comparison for us too.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

If we were winning the game regularly i'd agree. It's a more competitive rivalry than UVA.

Hoo?? I mean-uh, who??

#FUENTEenFUEGO
Waho's suck
Uva swallows

Georgia Tech vs Cumberland is a more competitive rivalry than us and UVA

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I'm not sure it does considering how much we talk about it.

"For those who have passed, for those to come, reach for excellence."

We talk about it a lot cause it's an asymbiotic relationship and its been awhile since we've cured it. It only benefits them if they win but if we win it's like...okay, you were supposed too sooooo good job. Doesn't help with ACC play or national perception.

I hate when people say this. They are a solid G5 win. If we kicked their ass every year it might be useless for us, but we don't. People don't like playing ECU because they frequently show us we aren't as good as we think. And the every year for 50 years thing.

I never said that they aren't a solid team, they have a really high powered offense that scares me but it's exactly what you said, it does nothing for us.

Edit: talking about this from a rivalry-every year standpoint. I do think Saturday will tell us a ton about where our team is mentally and if we are contenders this year

Could do something for us if our SOS actually came into play and they went on to win their conference.

It does nothing for us because we don't help ourselves.

thank you, if we win 10-11 games, beating ecu isnt going to keep us out of the CFP or a new years bowl...ecu is better than a lot of (most?) G5 teams that top ranked programs play against

Agree completely. From a perception standpoint, most non-VT fans don't see it as anything more than a should-win game including a lot of national media people so winning is a pat on the back and losing is another non-P5 loss. Lose-lose for Hokies to make it a yearly game where they can get familiar with our schemes, roster, and Lane Stadium. Mixing OOC scheduling up has clear advantages in that regard.

We talk about it a lot cause it's an asymbiotic relationship

I am liking this zoological term.

ECU and Matt Ryan suck.

Where is Click?!

I think you meant:

Fuck Matt Ryan. And ECU.

What I mean is, we'd rather be playing someone else. This pales in comparison to thinking of us playing Clemson, FSU or Louisville every year. Or a regular P5 OOC matchup.

The kicker is, the last few years our team has played like they'd rather be playing someone else too.

21st century QBs Undefeated vs UVA:
MV7, MV5, LT3, Jerod Evans, Michael Brewer, Tyrod Taylor, Sean Glennon, and Grant Noel. That's right, UVA. You couldn't beat Grant Noel.

I would just much rather be playing a random group of five team. Let's get some variety instead of the same non-conference opponent. I hate that we play ECU more often than conference opponents.

I agree. I just get sick of playing them every year. I think that is one of the benefits to having our rival in the same conference is that we could in theory we could rotate in more OOC games. It also seems like we should do some more home-away-home series, I think we did this some under Weaver. Get back to getting 7 home games on the schedule more.

Who would we rather play? To me the goal of non-acc games is to get prepared for your conference games. Playing liberty and other scrubs doesn't do that. ECU IMO is a perfect game to get ready for ACC play as they would be competitive in the conference themselves, and yes I am biased.

They also stepped up when we needed to find a team to schedule due to not going to 9 ACC games and no one ever gives them credit for that.

JC: Time to put you on the spot: who wins Saturday, and why?

NS: Virginia Tech in a close one, due mainly to the Hokies' running game and Bud Fu and home crowd.

Fixed that for him.

Seriously though, when was the last time an opposing beat writer said their team would lose due to the Hokie's running game

FeelsGoodMan

The secondary is young but talented with sophomore Corey Seargent and freshman Colby Gore manning the main cornerback roles

Come to Blacksburg and see what the Hokie Pokie is really all about

The secondary is young but talented with sophomore Corey Seargent and freshman Colby Gore manning the main cornerback roles.


Beat me to it...

I was thinking the exact same thing. A sophomore covering Isaiah or Bucky.

Seems like it'll be a nice test for the team. Eager to see how it plays out.

From the Washington Post:

Since Sept. 14, 2013, East Carolina of the American Athletic Conference has won six consecutive games against ACC teams, most recently a 33-30 victory over North Carolina State two weeks ago. That equals the number of wins Virginia and N.C. State have compiled in ACC play over that time, and is one more than Wake Forest.

The more I think about it, the more it's important to nip this streak in the bud.

The more I think about it, the more I hope UVA never wins another conference game.

Not the bagman VT deserves, but the bagman VT needs right now.

OT maybe: FAAAAUUUUCKKKK...I'm drunk!

Where is Click?!

Cheers Musky!

"That kid you're talking to right there, I think he played his nuts off! And you can quote me on that shit!" -Bud Foster