Keys to Victory: ECU versus Virginia Tech

Ruffin McNeill (Photo by USA Today Sports)

East Carolina hosts Virginia Tech in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium for what may prove to be the Pirates' biggest home game of the season.

ECU

1. Shut down Logan Thomas: Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas hasn't quite heated up this season. He connected with merely six passes in the season opener against Alabama. The offense came together as the Hokies took down Western Carolina 45-3 in Week 2, but Thomas still only accounted for seven of those points. Regardless, Thomas is the driving force behind Virginia Tech's offense. If the Pirates pressure him, they'll be able to slow down a lot of the Hokies' offense.

2. Run the ball: The running game was a nonfactor in ECU's season opener vs. Old Dominion. Quarterback Shane Carden threw for 447 yards en route to a 52-38 victory. With 95 yards on 20 carries, running back Vintavious Cooper led the rush against Florida Atlantic last week. A balanced offense is ECU's best bet for nchallenging Virginia Tech's defense, which is ranked 40th in the Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) in points allowed.

3. Stop the freshmen: ECU's defense, despite being a little banged up, needs to slow Virginia Tech's running game. The Hokies have two stellar freshmen running backs in Chris Mangus and Trey Edmunds. While Thomas is the engine of Virginia Tech's offense, these freshmen have proven capable of making big plays. Mangus stood out against Western Carolina with a 76-yard touchdown run. On top of that, ECU may face freshman receivers like Joshua Stanford rotating in if D.J. Coles' playing time is limited by the lingering effects of the knee injury that cost him most of last season.

Virginia Tech

1. Pressure Shane Carden: Just like Thomas is the force behind Virginia Tech's offense, Carden has shown he's the engine of ECU's offense. With two freshmen cornerbacks taking the field for the Hokies Saturday, Virginia Tech might have trouble containing Carden's passing game. If they allow him to connect with the likes of Justin Hardy and true freshmen Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones, it will be a long day for the Hokies.

2. Play Beamer Ball: When these two teams last met in 2011, the Hokies escaped Dowdy-Ficklen with a 17-10 win. With this matchup looking to be just as close, the Hokies can get the edge by having control on all three sides of the ball. Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer's coaching style focuses heavily on the team's ability to score wherever and whenever. Any big return made by special teams or interception by the defense could be the deciding factor on Saturday.

3. Maintain momentum on the rush: So far this season, Thomas has amounted to a single touchdown and three interceptions. Granted, he was challenged by top-ranked Alabama and its defense in the season opener. Still, the running game has been the bread and butter of this Virginia Tech's offense. Freshmen running backs have stolen the show in both of Virginia Tech's games. Should they continue to do so against ECU's defense, which is without starting inside linebackers Kyle Tudor and Jeremy Grove, the Hokies could leave Greenville with a win on Saturday.

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