Takeaways from Tech's rout at ECU

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BLACKSBURG – The Virginia Tech football program took care of East Carolina on Saturday afternoon in rather merciless fashion, romping past the Pirates 64-17 on a steamy day in Greenville, North Carolina.

Tech moved to 3-0 on the season, and the Hokies also moved up to No. 13 in both major polls – their highest ranking since 2012.

Associated Press poll – collegefootball.ap.org/poll

USA Today/Amway Coaches poll - usat.ly/2y7s3CW

The Pirates fell to 0-3. For the second straight year, the Hokies hung 50 on ECU, which speaks to Tech’s continued ascension and left most wondering what has happened to ECU’s once-proud program. The Pirates, quite simply, are a mess.

Tech scuffled through the first quarter, falling behind 17-7, but the Hokies owned the rest of the game, scoring on all but two possessions the rest of the afternoon – including their final possession when they took a knee to run out the clock.

So what was learned about the Hokies’ dominating performance Saturday? Here are some takeaways:

Tech beat the heat – This was one of those games when Mike Goforth and his staff (sports medicine) and Ben Hilgart and his staff (strength and conditioning) deserve a tip of the cap. Temperatures soared to nearly 90 degrees, and Greenville greeted the Hokies with its typical humidity. But Goforth, Hilgart and their staffs had the Hokies were prepared for it, and Tech suffered no cramping issues. The Hokies kept hydrated and embraced the conditions.

Yes, Tech was obviously the better team Saturday. The way that it played in muggy circumstances showed it also was the toughest.

Remaining calm – Some teams freak out when getting behind by 10 points as a four-touchdown favorite, but Tech’s players showed a trait that coaches love. The Hokies stayed calm, remained patient and trusted their system, especially on defense, as coordinator Bud Foster made a few adjustments that helped immensely.

The Hokies just played the next play. Doing so on the road, especially with a young team, makes their overall performance that much more impressive.

“We weren’t very worried because we had that first long drive,” Tech quarterback Josh Jackson said. “Things were clicking. They got us on third down. I could have given [Sean] Savoy a better ball, but other than that, we knew we could move the ball, and I thought we did a good job.”

Jackson with underrated performance – Yes, Cam Phillips enjoyed an amazing – and record-setting – day with 14 catches, and Joey Slye became Tech’s all-time leader in career field goals. But Jackson played extremely well.

The numbers were staggering – 24 of 31 for 372 yards and five touchdowns. Yet not all of those passes were easy. Jackson threw a lot of out patterns to Phillips on the wide side of the field. The ball has to travel a long way on those patterns, but Jackson showed plenty of zip and plenty of accuracy. That got lost among the numbers and records.

“The coaches were calling the right plays, and Josh was giving me a chance on those passes and trusting me,” Phillips said. “I just made the plays when they came to me.”

Speaking of Jackson, he still has not thrown an interception this season.

No Alexander, no problem – Tech played without cornerback Adonis Alexander, who was suspended by head coach Justin Fuente for undisclosed reasons. This could have been problematic, given ECU’s passing game, but the Hokies got an interception from Greg Stroman and solid play from Brandon Facyson, and backups Bryce Watts and Tyree Rodgers didn’t appear to be overwhelmed. For the most part, Tech’s safeties played well in the coverage.

The Hokies have a lot of versatility within their secondary. On Saturday, it showed, as ECU quarterback Gardner Minshew completed just 11 of 30.

Backups get much-needed reps – The best part about Tech’s performance Saturday was that it allowed the Hokies’ backups to get much-needed playing time. Tech’s staff started playing reserves midway through the third quarter, and of the 73 players who made the trip, all but a handful played.

It’s no secret that the Hokies lack depth at several spots. They lacked depth last year, too, but were fortunate that, outside of Nigel Williams and Greg Stroman, they suffered no major injuries. That type of good fortune doesn’t always last, and Saturday’s game served to prepare some backups in the event that the good fortune runs out.

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