Things to watch as Tech faces road test at ECU

By Jimmy Robertson

GREENVILLE, N.C. – In just a few hours, the Virginia Tech football program will square off against a struggling East Carolina squad in a game that will mark the Hokies’ first true road test of the 2017 season.

Tech enters the game with a 2-0 record and ranked No. 16 in both major polls. In contrast, the Pirates are 0-2 and have been blown out in both games.

Yet Tech fans remain cautious in their opinions of this game. Two years ago, the Pirates beat the Hokies in Greenville on a rainy Saturday afternoon. Three years ago, the Pirates bested the Hokies in Blacksburg. In 2008, ECU knocked off Tech in Charlotte. So Tech fans know all too well about the dangerous capabilities of the Pirates.

ECU enters the game having won seven of its past eight games against ACC opponents. The Pirates also haven’t started a season 0-3 in 13 years. They most assuredly will be motivated.

Here are some things to watch if the Hokies want to leave Greenville with win No. 3:

Finding consistency in the running game – Tech struggled to run the ball against a Delaware defense last week that went into the game determined to make the Hokies throw the ball (81 yards rushing), and ECU may try a similar strategy. Regardless, the Hokies want to get their running game going, and this game figures to be the one to do it. ECU, which fired its defensive coordinator this past week, is allowing a whopping 310.5 yards rushing per game through its first two games. Tech tailbacks haven’t rushed for 100 yards in nine straight games. Hopefully, that streak ends Saturday afternoon.

Continuing special teams dominance – Tech’s special teams received a lot of attention from the media this past week, and for good reason, as the Hokies have played outstanding in this area of the game. But there is no need to get caught up in the press clippings.

Greg Stroman returned a punt for a touchdown against the Pirates last season, and he provided the big play last week against Delaware. Can he do so again? It would surprise no one, but then, the Hokies possess several players with that type of ability. The Hokies need to continue their stellar play in these areas.

Continue to take care of the ball – Every football fan knows the value of protecting the ball, and Tech has lost one turnover in two games. East Carolina’s opponents have lost just two turnovers in two games this season. The Hokies do not need to get sloppy against the Pirates. It would be the quickest way for them to lose this game.

Stay solid defensively – Despite its 0-2 record, ECU is averaging more than 400 yards of total offense per game. The Pirates average more than 300 through the air, and because of a suspension to Adonis Alexander, the Hokies enter this game missing a key player. Tech’s defense needs to be solid and hopefully force some ECU turnovers. The Pirates have shown a penchant for coughing up the ball – they have turned it over six times this season.

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