When Justin Fuente announced Virginia Tech's special teams player of the week, he likely had no clue the fire he lit under his team.
Greg Stroman rocked the number 25 jersey, and quickly proved Fuente's decision a wise one. He took East Carolina's opening punt 87 yards to the house, and the Hokies kickstarted a 54-17 drubbing of the Pirates with a vintage "Beamerball" score.
"It was really cool," Fuente said. "When I announced it to the team on Thursday, you could see Greg just light up. It meant something to him. Not that it hasn't meant something to the other guys. I cautioned him, 'I know this is important to you, but this doesn't mean that we bring kickoffs back form 9 yards deep in the endzone. We can still fair catch a punt.' But you trust him and his decision making to do what's best for the team. For him to take one to the house, I know there were a bunch of people that was really special for."
It was the second career punt return touchdown for Stroman, who came into the game primed to take one to the house.
"I was definitely ecstatic when (Fuente) announced (the No. 25) was mine," Stroman said. "I talked to the (punt) return team and they were wanting me to get in there with it on. It really worked out."
Indeed, and that was just the start for the Hokies. Tech scored in all three phases of the game, blocked a punt as well as a field goal, and managed a sack for a safety.
For the second straight game, Bud Foster's defense was outstanding. After giving up 169 yards rushing to QB James Summers last year, Foster had the perfect scheme to slow down ECU's running threat when he entered the game.
"I liked our plan. I liked the way our kids practiced this week," Foster said. "We had anticipated — with (Summers), from what we had seen on film of him at quarterback, and we'd heard during the week — he was going to be involved a little bit more in the offense. I know they like their quarterback (Philip Nelson), and I felt like they were gonna figure (Summers) in a little bit more at running back."
Summers' day ended with a paltry 34 yards on 10 rushing attempts. Although, ECU QB Philip Nelson connected on two long touchdown passes in garbage time.
"We gave away a couple of cheap plays," Foster said. "That was disappointing, but I'll say this, it's hard to keep these teams down that throw it around and have some dynamic athletes. It's just hard to do that. That's something that we can correct and improve on, but all-in-all, I was really pleased with our efforts."
Behind another lights out defensive performance, Virginia Tech's offense was able to find its rhythm in the second quarter. The Hokies parlayed that momentum into a 38-0 halftime advantage, and Fuente was certainly pleased with the early points his offense has put up thus far this season.
"I think our guys are starting to learn how we want them to prepare," Fuente said. "That doesn't guarantee that we'll jump out on everybody like that...I hope they're seeing the success they're having when they're doing it the way we're asking them to do it. I don't know if that'll be a trend — I'll be all for it if it is — but I like our approach."
Jerod Evans, who has thrown 13 touchdowns against one pick, ranks statistically among the upper echelon of ACC QBs. Fuente was complimentary of his quarterback's decision making today, something he has preached since coming to Virginia Tech.
"I think he's been pretty good," Fuente said. "Pretty judicious with the ball. Going the right place most of the time. He had a couple balls that I wish we could give guys a little better chance to catch today. But, we made some plays. Obviously he made a big play with his feet there in the second half. He's been pretty efficient."
That aforementioned run was reminiscent of the Lane Stadium touchdown scampers from Mike Vick and Tyrod Taylor. After scrambling to his left, Evans cut back across the middle, picked up some nice blocking on the permitter, and made some ankle-breaking jukes to score from 55 yards out.
"When I broke the first tackle and I went to the right, I had a feeling that, with the blocking that I had in front of me, I said it might could go," Evans said. "I just followed them. They did a hell of a job getting in front of me (to block)."
Always the self-critic, Evans immediately found flaws from today's game that could be improved upon, notably, his downfield passing.
"Personally, I need to work on completing the freaking ball downfield," Evans said with a grin. "Missed a couple here and there. Missed a dig (route) to Isaiah (Ford). Missed him on a go-route at the beginning of the third quarter...I have a lot of things I can clean up, for sure, that I wish I could have back."
One deep ball Evans connected on was a 55-yard strike to receiver Cam Phillips. Phillips finished the game with an unusual stat line for a wideout — one catch, one TD, one blocked punt, and a half sack via a fake punt in the fourth quarter.
"It's like a Krispy Kreme doughnut with the hot sign on," Phillips said of how it feels to see the offense clicking.
"Yeah, I put a brick in 'Sacksburg' today," he said of his first career sack.
- In their last two games, the Hokies have outscored Boston College and East Carolina 103-17. It is their first back-to-back games with 49 points offensively since beating Rutgers and Syracuse in 1999.
- With two blocks on the day, the Hokies now have 42 field goal blocks and 68 punt blocks in the last 30 seasons.
- Isaiah Ford now sits one TD catch behind Antonio Freeman (22) for the all-time record at Virginia Tech.
- Bud Foster picked up his 200th career win as the defensive or co-defensive coordinator at Virginia Tech.