Virginia Tech football travels to Greenville to take on East Carolina in Week 3. Can the Pirates pull off the huge upset, or will the Hokies roll?
No. 16 Virginia Tech (2-0) and East Carolina (0-2) will meet for the fifth straight season on Saturday. It may be surprising to some given the pedigrees but the schools are currently tied 2-2 in this incarnation of the series. The Hokies won last year’s contest, the first for now second-year head coaches Justin Fuente and Scottie Montgomery, 54-17.
ECU beat the Hokies the last two seasons of Ruffin McNeill and Frank Beamer’s tenures. This includes the teams’ last meeting in Greenville in 2015, a 35-28 Pirates win as 10-point underdogs.
ECU enters this years’ matchup fresh-off firing their defensive coordinator and with quarterback concerns. Defensive coordinator Kenwick Thompson was “reassigned” to a non-coaching position after the Pirates gave up 34 points to James Madison and 56 to West Virgina.
Thomas Sirk, a Duke grad transfer, is in the concussion protocol but will start if he is healthy. Sirk has one touchdown to four interceptions while sharing time with junior Gardner Minshew this season. Minshew started the opener but was relieved by Sirk. The opposite then happened in the second game. Minshew has completed only 45.2 percent of his passes.
Virginia Tech has found their quarterback in Josh Jackson. The redshirt freshman has carried the Hokies offense through wins over West Virginia and Delaware. Jackson has completed 57.4 percent of his passes for 457 yards, three touchdowns, and no interceptions. He also leads the team in rushing with 120 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries
Here’s how you can watch Saturday’s Virginia Tech Hokies vs. East Carolina Pirates game:
Keys to Victory
For most teams losing their starting quarterback is a death knell. For East Carolina, it might not be a huge deal. Sirk has been terrible. Minshew in many ways has been worse. If ECU is going to pull off the upset and get Montgomery a signature win, they are going to have to take a play out of Virginia Tech’s “Beamer Ball” playbook. Finally playing some defense and getting some big plays out of special teams will be needed to aid the sputtering offense.
The Hokies are in the middle of a three-game tune-up between their season opener against ranked West Virginia and their ACC opener against Clemson, who will be somewhere in the Top 10. There is no good reason Virginia Tech should lose this one. Jackson has been a serviceable game manager, but their offense needs to improve. They are ranked in the bottom half of the ACC in scoring, passing, rushing, and total offense. A win for the Hokies would be Jackson going off in the first half and sitting the second half to avoid injury.
While these two have played competitive games in the past, this will not be one of them. ECU used to scare ACC teams when they would come into G-Vegas, especially Virginia Tech, but not anymore. Common opponents are by no means a perfect way to predict future results. However, in this case, it is rather definitive. The Hokies won a competitive game on a neutral field against West Virginia. The Pirates got blown away by the Mountaineers. Add in the expected talent gap and the lack of an experience advantage for ECU and it is no wonder Virginia Tech is a 21-point favorite.
Final Score: Virginia Tech 42, ECU 17