As the final seconds ticked away on the clock and Virginia Tech took a knee to bring the 54-17 game to an end, the East Carolina attempted comeback fell short, as yet another game was was lost due to sloppy play.
After a close loss to South Carolina the week before, the Pirates seemed poised to travel to Blacksburg, Virginia to face the Hokies. Instead, ECU delivered a performance that rivaled Week 3’s loss to the Gamecocks in terms of disappointment.
ECU’s special teams had some major deficits, the offensive line could not stand up to the physicality of the Virginia Tech defensive line, and there were several dropped passes that, if caught, could have altered the outcome of the game.
“We didn’t win the line of scrimmage, whether it was the offense or defense. [Virginia Tech] won the line of scrimmage,” ECU head coach Scottie Montgomery said. “All in all, our guys, all coaching, playing, we’ve all got to do much better Monday through Friday.”
The game started well with the Pirate defense holding Virginia Tech to a three-and-out. ECU’s defense showed improvement against the run, as the Hokies attempted to rush three straight times for a total of only seven yards. Momentum appeared to be on the Pirates’ side before a costly special teams mistake set the tone.
The game changed when ECU went three-and-out, in large part thanks to a Jimmy Williams drop on a deep ball. Worth Gregory then outkicked the coverage on his punt and Virginia Tech’s Greg Stroman found a gap and returned the punt 87 yards for the first score of the game, sparking the more than 63,000 fans.
The second quarter started the Pirates’ tumble, as the Pirates drove 73 yards and had their 26-yard field goal blocked, keeping the Pirates off of the scoreboard for the first half.
Following the block, kicker Davis Plowman didn’t return to the game, and was limping after the game while icing his ankle. The game marked back-to-back games that the Pirate special teams unit had field goals blocked.
In addition to allowing the punt return touchdown and the blocked field goal, the Hokies blocked an ECU punt, forced a Worth Gregory turnover on downs, as well as downing C.J. Maybin after a muffed punt.
“Our special teams play has got to be light years different [starting] tomorrow,” said Montgomery after the loss.
ECU’s defense continued to play well in the first quarter to force two more three-and-outs after the special teams score, but then the Hokies found their rhythm on offense and began to move the ball successfully down the field.
Much like the Gamecocks game, ECU quarterback Philip Nelson continued to get hit, as massive amounts of pressure were brought on each play.
Also similar to last week’s game in South Carolina, ECU struggled in the red zone again. Saturday’s woes weren’t as bad as last week’s three turnovers, but the Pirates went 0-for-2 in the red zone. ECU’s only points scored came off long passes that the receiver took several yards to make their way into the end zone.
With Nelson getting beat up, ECU also potentially suffered a major loss on defense as Demetri McGill injured his ankle in the loss and didn’t return. McGill was seen on the sideline using crutches in a walking boot.
“We’ll find out a little more about (McGill) to come,” said Montgomery. “Tomorrow will be an interesting morning in just trying to figure out what we got going on, and what we came out with. That was a big boy game there.”