By HANK KURZ Jr.
BLACKSBURG, Va. —
Virginia Tech’s black cloud of doom has lifted, for now.
The Hokies did a lot more right on offense and a lot less wrong on special teams in their 45-3 victory against Western Carolina than they had in their opener against top-ranked Alabama.
But coach Frank Beamer believes this Saturday’s game at East Carolina will offer a much better gauge on where the Hokies stand.
The Pirates (2-0) employ a spread offense that has been extremely effective in victories against Old Dominion and Florida Atlantic. Quarterback Shane Carden has completed 63 of 79 passes for seven touchdowns and no interceptions, and wide receiver Justin Hardy has caught 20 passes for 227 yards and a score.
“It definitely is a measuring stick for us because we know the next couple weeks here, we are going to be going against some of these up-tempo, kind of in-your-face style offenses,” Hokies linebacker Jack Tyler said, adding that Carden’s completion percentage is “absurd.”
“We’ve got to get prepared for them,” Tyler said. “We’ve got to start learning how to play good defense against them and I’m excited. I want to go against an offense like this. This is our first chop at playing a team that plays a similar offense to a UNC or something like that, so I know we’re excited and ready to go.”
After the Pirates, the Hokies host Marshall, travel to Georgia Tech and then host North Carolina. That will be four consecutive opponents that play fast, including three that employ spread offenses.
The Hokies’ defense has been solid through two games, but the offense has struggled. Virginia Tech got off to another slow start against the Catamounts, but rallied to hand them their 12th straight loss and 21st in their last 22 games.
The offense finally clicked after a sloppy start.
“It felt real good this Saturday,” tailback J.C. Coleman said. “We played a pretty complete game on offense other than probably the first quarter. We threw the ball well. We ran the ball well. The offense played pretty well together overall and just pretty excited about the offense going forward.”
Beamer was pleased, too, but needs to see more.
“I thought our execution overall was better. I thought our special teams plays was much better,” Beamer said. “But you’re stepping it back up like you say, we’re playing a lot more athletic team, more athletes running around this week than we did last week, so they’ve got to keep stepping it up.”
With the Pirates averaging 41.5 points and led by a quarterback, Shane Carden, who has completed nearly 80 percent of his passes with seven touchdown passes and no interceptions, coach Ruffin McNeill still expects his team to be hard-pressed to continue that trend against Bud Foster’s Hokies defense.
“His defensive units have his personality stamped on them,” McNeill, who is 0-2 in his career against Virginia Tech, said. “They’ve always had athleticism on defense and length in the secondary with rangy and fast DB’s. Up front, their defensive-line play is very quick, strong and disruptive.”
Virginia Tech has won four straight at East Carolina.