East Carolina has not looked good in its last two games, and it’s not even remotely debatable.
In Saturday’s 54-17 loss at Virginia Tech and the Sept. 17, 20-15 loss at South Carolina, ECU combined for two interceptions, two fumbles and two blocked field goals, all of which came in its own red zone. Not to mention, a punt return touchdown, a safety, a muffed punt and a blocked punt that set Virginia Tech up on its on 24-yard line in the second quarter.
All four turnovers and one blocked field goal came against South Carolina, and many thought the Pirates would come out blazing against Virginia Tech to make up for the poor performance in Columbia. And man were they wrong.
After turning the ball over five times in its own red zone at South Carolina, the Pirates continued the same trend, going 0-for-2 in its red zone Saturday. The most abysmal performance for the Pirates however, came on special teams.
The first score of the game, came on an 87-yard Virginia Tech punt return, with the Pirates punt team missing multiple tackles. The Pirates then surrendered the blocked field goal, a muffed punt and a blocked punt, undoubtedly showing there is still work to be done on special teams.
The misery didn’t stop there, as the resurgent ECU defense looked drained and outmatched, allowing 54 Virginia Tech points. Virginia Tech quarterback Jerod Evan’s 55-yard touchdown run perfectly summarizes the Pirates defensive performance, as he juked his way past four ECU defenders to bulldoze into the end zone to take the 47-7 lead.
In total, the ECU defense surrendered 462 total yards, and seven touchdowns. Nothing was going right for the Pirates, as their best defensive player, Corey Seargent was burned over the top numerous times, which is very uncharacteristic.
Stopping the comparisons with the Gamecocks, Virginia Tech is a much better football team and it was proven Saturday. The Hokies out dueled the Pirates in all facets of football, moving the ball offensively with no problem and manhandling the Pirates on defense.
After beating Virginia Tech twice in a row and winning six straight games against Atlantic Coast Conference, it's safe to say the Hokies didn’t overlook the Pirates this time around.
One would be hard pressed to find a positive for the Pirates when looking back at game film.
The Virginia Tech defense was remarkably impressive, as it absolutely dominated the ECU offense. It held Philip Nelson to complete only 7-of-21 passes in the first half, holding the Pirate offense to just 145 yards. Two irrelevant touchdown passes boosted Nelson’s numbers, finishing 17-of-34 with two touchdown passes.
Hokie defensive coordinator Bud Foster made it a point to key in on Zay Jones in the game, who still managed to reel in 10 catches for 115 yards, although he was targeted much more.
“They mixed up their coverage’s really well. Hats off to Bud Foster,” Jones said. “He even told me after the game that he was looking to stop me.”
Is ECU having struggles on the road? Or has it just hit a rough patch against bigger conference opponents? I guess we’ll find out in the coming weeks.
But one thing is for certain, if the Pirates hope to compete in the American Athletic Conference, they need to figure some things out quick, as conference play begins next week versus Central Florida.