The heart-breaking 15-10 loss to Virginia Tech Saturday has left ECU players and coaches with questions about how they will respond.
The team had Sunday and Monday off, but will take to the practice field Tuesday to begin preparation for a matchup against another talented ACC team in UNC Chapel Hill. The Pirates travel to Chapel Hill on Sept. 28 for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff against the Tar Heels.
Head coach Ruffin McNeill is a fan of the new policy providing teams with two bye weeks this season.
“I think the (bye) weeks were planned perfectly this year,” McNeill said. “I don’t mind the two off-weeks and I think having one this early is always good. We divide the seasons into quarters. With this first one done we have time to heal some nicks and bruises we have. We’ll get three days in this week and do some recruiting before getting back to normal operations Sunday.”
The bye week should give linebackers Jeremy Grove and Kyle Tudor time to heal up before taking on the Tar Heels, but their return is still highly in question. Both players missed the matchup with Virginia Tech – Grove has a back injury while Tudor injured his shoulder.
Senior running back Vintavious Cooper had an impressive opening drive against the Hokies before eventually getting bottled up for a duration of the game. After the tough loss, Cooper gave his opinion on having time off.
“Personally I don’t like bye weeks,” Cooper said. “I would rather go ahead and play another game to keep it rolling. With that being said, we have a week to rest and watch film to prepare for UNC so we’ll take this week and use it to the best of our abilities. Hopefully next week we can come in and get a lot of work done to step into (Kenan Stadium) ready.”
Until Saturday, the offense was running like a well-oiled machine through two games. Turnovers and lack of possession spelled doom for the unit – which will happen again against UNC if the Pirates don’t clean it up.
The defense had its most impressive game against the Hokies earning ECU a top ten ranking (No.9) nationally in both run defense and sacks. Rick Smith has to be impressed with his defensive front and linebacking core, but the secondary continues to give up chunks of yardage. If ECU allows the Tar Heels to pick up as many third and longs as the Hokies did, it could get ugly.
When grading the first quarter of the season for ECU I’d give the team a B. While the Pirates did lose a winnable game against Virginia Tech, the team had an impressive defensive performance.
This bye week gives ECU more time to heal up and right some wrongs before UNC, which is a more talented team across the board than the Hokies. The Tar Heels will be ready to play regardless of who the Pirates played in their previous game. This week will be key in setting the tone for the contest in two weeks.