The Hokies were fortunate to escape with a 17-10 win in Logan Thomas‘ first road start two years ago and came away with a 16-3 victory in 2009, so coach Frank Beamer isn’t taking Tech’s trip there this weekend lightly.
“They’ve got our attention and have got our respect,” Beamer said. “They’re a very, very explosive football team.”
East Carolina hasn’t only been competitive in Greenville. The Pirates knocked off the 17th-ranked Hokies in Charlotte to open the 2008 season, a 27-22 win, one of the school’s many against BCS-level competition.
Although Virginia Tech has won four of five matchups with East Carolina since 2007, three were decided by 10 points or less.
Beamer is most impressed by the Pirates’ offense, which has scored 83 points in wins against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic. Quarterback Shane Carden has thrown for 638 yards and seven touchdowns with no picks in two games, completing close to 80 percent of his passes.
“That’s hard to do in pass skel,” Beamer said. “And they’re doing it in real games.”
This is the first of an eight-game extension to the series that will go through 2020, with the teams alternating home games every other year.
– Virginia Tech’s game against Marshall on Sept. 21 at Lane Stadium has been set as a noon kickoff. It will be televised by ESPNU or ESPNews or be online on ESPN3.com. The league will make that decision by Sept. 15.
– Right guard Andrew Miller sprained his ankle in Saturday’s game and was on the sideline in the second half in a walking boot. X-rays were negative. Beamer said it’s not the same ankle he injured last year and that trainer Mike Goforth said Miller was “really coming along well.” The Hokies will know more later in the week about his status.
Brent Benedict took Miller’s place at right guard but it’s tough to replicate what the senior brings to the line.
“I think we miss his mentality when he’s not in the game, his toughness,” Beamer said. “I think he’s exactly what you want. And I think we’re better when he’s in the ballgame, I don’t think there’s any question about that. Not only from just blocking, physically what he can do, but mentally what he brings to that group.”
– Beamer said running back J.C. Coleman tweaked his left ankle in Saturday’s game against Western Carolina but thinks “he’ll be better this week than he was last week.”
He’ll return to what is starting to become a crowded backfield, with Trey Edmunds the lead back and Chris Mangus and Joel Caleb also as options. That doesn’t mean a diminished role for Coleman, though.
“J.C. has got some explosion in there and good knowledge from pass protection,” Beamer said. “I think he’s a solid all-around back for us, really. Just like Trey is.”
As for Mangus, Beamer said it’s “full-speed ahead” with him staying at running back and not returning to wide receiver. He’d like to get the redshirt freshman in space more to take advantage of his speed. Tech might use him in motion a lot. Beamer also praised Joel Caleb‘s toughness.
“From one week to the second week, that position got a lot stronger,” he said.
– Beamer said the plan right now is for freshman offensive linemen Wyatt Teller and Parker Osterloh to redshirt.
“We’ll see how it goes,” he said. “We’re just really thin. But if we can, we’d like to right now. That’s the plan right now.”
– Detrick Bonner‘s interception return for a touchdown against Western Carolina was Virginia Tech’s first defensive touchdown since the 2010 ACC title game against Florida State, when Jeron Gouveia-Winslow had a pick six against FSU’s EJ Manuel. That’s a streak of 29 games, the longest of Beamer’s time in Blacksburg.
Is there a reason or is it tied to luck?
“I think part of it has been us and part of it has been the way the ball bounces,” Beamer said. “But hopefully you stay around it long enough, the ball bounces your way a few times. So maybe there’s some more there that we can get.”
– It sounds like tight end Kalvin Cline is here to stay in the offense. The true freshman, who committed to Tech in the spring, very late in the process, had four catches for 46 yards Saturday in his debut.
“He’s athletic. No. 2, he’s smart,” Beamer said. “We threw him in there last week and, honestly, we move around a lot and shift and motion and a lot of stuff going on, and threw him in there and he didn’t miss much. Really, had not been around it and hadn’t been getting reps and all of a sudden he’s in there and getting most of it is really pretty impressive.
“He’s got some toughness. He cares. You like the kid. And he gives us a little stretch there. You’d like to see him get a little bit bigger and stronger, and he will in time. He’s just a true freshman. But he gives you something as far as an athletic tight end that can help us there.”
– Beamer thought the receivers had a better game, making a few tough caches and limiting the drops, but not completely eliminating them.
“They spent a lot of time after practice, catching balls,” he said. “And we’ll do that again and see if we have zero drops.”
Willie Byrn, a former walk-on from Virginia Beach, had his biggest game to date, catching four passes for 58 yards. Above all else, Beamer likes his consistency.
“He’s smart,” Beamer said. “He runs his routes at the correct depth. I think Logan can anticipate with him and get the ball out of his hands before he even makes a break. He has confidence like that in him. That’s a great thing for a quarterback. Those receivers, if you’re on the same page and can anticipate and can get the ball out, it’s a lot easier to play quarterback that way.”