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September 3, 2008

Hokies sputter down the stretch in season-opening loss to ECU

By: Jimmy Robertson

Ike WhitakerIke Whitaker

The 2008 Virginia Tech football squad opened the season at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, right in the heart of NASCAR country and only minutes away from cavernous Lowe’s Motor Speedway, one of NASCAR’s most popular venues.

Given how the game ended, the best description would be to say the Hokies got passed on the last lap.

Tech appeared to run out of gas heading toward the finish line, giving up 14 points in the final 3:36 and ultimately watching East Carolina head to victory lane with a 27-22 win. The season-opening loss marked the Hokies’ first since falling to Southern Cal in the 2004 opener and it marked just Tech’s second season-opening loss in the past 13 seasons.

It was not the greatest of days for Tech, which wrecked itself in just about every turn. The Hokies’ offense turned the ball over twice, including a critical one right before halftime, and only made one big play. The defense missed tackles on nearly every play. And the kicking game was abysmal.

In fact, the kicking game turned out clinch the game for ECU. The Pirates forced a punt by Tech’s Brent Bowden with less than two minutes to go, and T.J. Lee slid past the Hokies’ protection to block the punt. Lee picked up the loose ball and ran it 27 yards to the end zone for a touchdown that gave ECU a 27-22 lead with 1:52 remaining – its first lead of the game.

“It hurts to lose with a blocked kick at the end,” Tech head coach Frank Beamer said. “We were zone protecting. The guy [Lee] kind of beat our tackle underneath. I thought the snap was a little soft; the kick was a little slow. The guy just broke through on our protection and he did a nice job.

“There’s no excuse [for the block]. I bet no one’s worked harder on zone blocking this preseason than us.”
The Hokies had a final chance. But four plays netted just three yards, with a Sean Glennon pass falling short on fourth down to cinch things for the Pirates.

Glennon, a redshirt senior who beat out Tyrod Taylor for the starting job, played reasonably well except for two costly interceptions. The worst came right before halftime when the Hokies led 14-0. On third-and-16 from the Tech 17, he went back to pass and threw it right into the hands of ECU’s Nick Johnson, who returned it all the way to the 1. ECU scored shortly thereafter to cut the lead to 7 and took the momentum into the locker room at halftime.

Kenny Lewis, Jr. rushed for 58 yards on 12 carries and scored a touchdown on a 6-yard run in the second quarter.

“I can’t blame anyone but myself,” Glennon said. “It was a bad decision on my part. I didn’t see him [Johnson] and I need to see that guy. It’s on me. I’ve got to take care of the ball on third and long. That hurt us.”

Glennon completed 14-of-23 for 139 yards to lead a Tech offense that mustered just 243 yards on the day. Sixty-two of that came on a pass to Dyrell Roberts.

ECU quarterback Pat Pinkney paced the Pirates, completing 19-of-23 for 211 yards and a touchdown. The Pirates also rushed for 158 yards.

One of the few bright spots for the Hokies was the play of cornerback Stephan Virgil. The junior from Rocky Mount, N.C., returned a fumble 30 yards for a touchdown and a blocked extra point for a two-point conversion.

“I felt like that could be the difference,” Virgil said. “It was tough to lose it. We let it get away at the end.”

The Hokies now head to the shop for extensive repairs. Tech figures to lap Furman in its next game before opening the race to the ACC title game with a contest against Georgia Tech. Media members put Tech on the pole for that, but it needs to get the motor firing on all cylinders for the Hokies to take that particular checkered flag at the end of the season.


  • Stephan Virgil’s touchdown was the 116th non-offensive touchdown scored by Tech under Beamer. It was the 75th scored by the defense, with 25 coming on fumble returns. The last fumble return for a touchdown by a Tech player came in 2006 when Xavier Adibi returned one 35 yards for a score in the third quarter of a game at Wake Forest.
  • Tech now has a nation-leading 67 non-offensive touchdowns since the start of the 1999 season. That’s six ahead of Miami.
  • Tech’s All-ACC cornerback Macho Harris did not make the trip to Charlotte. The senior injured his left foot in the Hokies’ last fall scrimmage and sat out the game, snapping a streak of 27 consecutive starts.
  • Ten Tech players made their first collegiate starts – Danny Coale, Blake DeChristopher, Dyrell Roberts, Rashad Carmichael, John Graves, Davon Morgan, Purnell Sturdivant, Cordarrow Thompson, Stephan Virgil and Jason Worilds.
  • Eight of the 10 true freshmen who dressed played in the game – Roberts, Xavier Boyce, Jarrett Boykin, Jake Johnson, Quillie Odom, Bruce Taylor, Eddie Whitley and Lorenzo Williams. Ryan Williams, a talented running back, didn’t play.
  • All four members of Tech’s secondary made their first career starts at their respective positions – Carmichael, Virgil, Davon Morgan and Kam Chancellor. Chancellor started at rover last year, but was moved to safety this past spring.
  • DeChristopher, an offensive tackle, missed most of the game after suffering a deep thigh bruise on the first series. Richard Graham and Greg Nosal played in his absence.