Virginia Tech Coach Frank Beamer said immediately after the Hokies’ 66-13 thrashing of Appalachian State on Saturday that he couldn’t have asked for a better way to open the 2011 season. If Beamer’s Monday teleconference with reporters is any indication, it may have looked even better on film.
The most revealing of Beamer’s tidbits was about running back David Wilson’s 162-yard, three-touchdown performance. Wilson broke 15 tackles on his 16 carries Saturday, Beamer said, something former running backs coach Billy Hite “feels might be a record around here.”
What’s certain is that Wilson’s first touchdown run 47 seconds into the game was, in fact, a record. According to Virginia Tech’s sports information department, Wilson’s 20-yard scamper “became the fastest touchdown by a Tech player in the Beamer era to open a season, the fastest touchdown in a home opener, the fastest touchdown in Lane Stadium, and the fastest touchdown in a game overall since Andre Davis caught a 74-yard touchdown pass from Michael Vick in a 58-20 victory at Rutgers on October 9, 1999. That one took just 18 seconds.”
“He was something special,” Beamer said. “It was an impressive performance.”
Opening the holes for Wilson was an offensive line that had nine players, including all five starters, scored a “winning” grade of 80 percent or higher.
More significantly, Beamer said no Hokies players suffered any injuries that will keep them out of this Saturday’s matchup at East Carolina. He added that reserve offensive lineman Michael Via (knee) and safety Theron Norman (shoulder) will return to practice this week and could play against East Carolina on Saturday.
The Pirates are a familiar opponent with a familiar quarterback. This is the fifth straight season Virginia Tech has faced East Carolina, and the third time the Hokies will go against quarterback Dominique Davis. He started for Boston College in the 2008 ACC championship game against Virginia Tech, and then transferred to East Carolina.
When the Hokies beat the Pirates, 49-27, last year, Davis was effective slinging the ball around the field, especially in the first half. He finished the game 30 of 44 for 251 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions, and remains the biggest reason why this could be the most treacherous game of the Hokies’ easier-than-usual nonconference schedule.
Last year, East Carolina averaged close to 37 points per game and had the nation’s No. 8 passing attack in terms of yards. The Pirates also led the Hokies by 10 at halftime in Lane Stadium last year before Virginia Tech pulled away in the second half. This game, though, will be played at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, a place that was filled to 99 percent capacity in 2010.
“The last time I was down there, it was a frenzy,” Beamer said.
Virginia Tech last visited Greenville, N.C., for a Thursday night game in November 2009, emerging with a 16-3 victory. “I don’t think it’s gonna be anything less this time,” Beamer said.
On the other end of the spectrum is East Carolina Coach Ruffin McNeill, who declared Monday that the Pirates’ nonconference schedule is “the toughest in the country. Period.” In addition to facing the 13th-ranked Hokies, the Pirates started the year with a 56-31 loss at No. 12 South Carolina on Saturday and also have games against Navy and North Carolina.
McNeill declined to put any stock in how East Carolina held up in Blacksburg in 2010, especially because his team is coming off an eerily similar loss to the Gamecocks this past weekend. The Pirates took a 17-0 lead but unraveled under a wave of fumbles and gave up 42 points in the second half.
It was the debut of East Carolina’s new 3-4 defense, installed this offseason after the Pirates allowed more yards per game than any other Football Bowl Subdivision team in the country. Though McNeill’s new scheme only gave up 351 yards against the Gamecocks, there’s still a ways to go in that department.
“There’s no magical potion or Harry Potter wand I can wave to get them there quicker,” McNeill said.
Sounds like something Virginia Tech’s offense, which racked up 518 yards this past weekend, might be salivating over.