After going down 14-0 early, East Carolina dominated Virginia Tech in the pouring rain, beating the Hokies 35-28 for their second straight win in the series. It was a disappointing performance for a Virginia Tech team that was forced to play without All-ACC cornerback Kendall Fuller (sprained knee), who will undergo further evaluation when the team returns to Blacksburg, Virginia. Here is how it went down:
Player of the game: James Summers. East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill turned to Summers in the second half with the rain coming down and his running ability more suited for a soggy field. Summers responded with one elusive run after another. His ran straight through the heart of the Virginia Tech defense on a 41-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and ended up with 169 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He added 110 yards passing.
Top play: Virginia Tech might have lost, but punter A.J. Hughes needs an inordinate amount of credit for the play he made early in the third quarter. After a bad snap, Hughes went chasing the ball into the end zone behind him. Rather than throw the ball out of the end zone or getting tackled for a safety, he still managed to get the punt off -- and it went 60 yards. It was a really remarkable play from Hughes, who made headlines earlier this week for launching a kick over the scoreboard.
What the win means for East Carolina: The Pirates certainly deserved the win, especially after they recovered from such a poor start. They never lost their confidence or poise, and found a way to dominate a Virginia Tech defense that looked nothing like the group we have become accustomed to seeing under Bud Foster. Give McNeill credit for going with Summers and taking advantage of his ability to run in the rain. Blake Kemp played well in the first half, too, finding seams in the Virginia Tech secondary with Fuller out. Kemp went 9-of-12 for 118 yards with a touchdown and interception. The 35 points are the most East Carolina has ever scored against Virginia Tech in their 20-game series history. A win like this should give the Pirates confidence headed into American play.
What the loss means for Virginia Tech: It was yet another dispiriting loss under coach Frank Beamer. Those seem to be happening more frequently than ever. The loss to East Carolina last season was deflating, but this one more so because of the circumstances. For one, East Carolina was a better team last year. For another, Virginia Tech went into that game off a huge win over Ohio State, and many predicted a letdown could happen. But what was difficult to watch was the way the Virginia Tech defense played in this game. To put it bluntly, it got dominated. The offense couldn't run the ball, either. So we all go back to the same, familiar problems. A leaky defense; an offense that can't run, and way too many penalties that impact the outcome (Virginia Tech had a touchdown called back on a flag). Virginia Tech had 11 penalties for the third straight game. We were told things would be different this season. So far, it doesn't appear that way.