Offense prepares for the Hokies

East Carolina football hosts Virginia Tech this Saturday September 14. Inside ECU Sports was at practice to speak with the offense about preparing for the Hokie defense.

In their last meeting (in 2011) Virginia Tech came into Dowdy-Ficklen stadium and escaped with a narrow victory. The Pirates battled the Hokies the entire game until a 10-yard touchdown run by Josh Oglesby midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the difference – the final ended up being 17-10. Virginia Tech was ranked No. 11 nationally at the time.

Despite the 2011 loss, head coach Ruffin McNeill is confident going into this weekend's matchup.

"Virginia Tech is very talented and well coached," McNeill said. "But we have a very talented team and I like our coaches as well. It's a great challenge for us and we're looking forward to it."

ECU's quarterback Shane Carden has shown mastery of offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley's offense through the first two games. With that being said, he knows Virginia Tech's defense is a different animal compared to ODU or FAU.

"(Virginia Tech) is going to give us a lot of different looks on defense," Carden said. "I can't let it cloud my vision because there are only so many things teams can do on defense. As long as I go through my reads I'll be alright, but this defense is very aggressive and can get quarterbacks off track."

Virginia Tech returns a majority of their Frank Beamer led defense from 2012, but does have an Achilles heel at cornerback. Two freshman cornerbacks will be on the field Saturday. ECU's dominant passing attack could be a deciding factor if the freshmen can't keep up. As long as the penalty problem is addressed the offense should be able to have productive drives.

"As long as we go out there and take care of the ball we'll be fine," Carden said. "We can't have any negative plays, like penalties or turnovers, we just need to continue to make our routine plays and not do too much. We can't get caught up in the fact that it's an ACC team, if we relax and play our game we'll be alright."

Running back Vintavious Cooper returned to ‘last season form' against FAU last Thursday. He picked up his first touchdown of the season, nearly earned his first 100-yard game of 2013 and led the team in receiving. Cooper and the running back corps is ready for another big game.

"I'm ready and the team is ready for any challenge right now," Cooper said. "The anticipation is high for this game and we're all confident we can execute against anybody. We are thinking of it as just another game for us with the mindset that we can execute and will."

One of the strong points of Virginia Tech's defense in recent memory has been its ability to stop the run. Cooper knows the Hokies bring with them a talented crop of defensive playmakers.

"They look like Virginia Tech on defense," Cooper said. "They are always a top defense in stopping the run, but we can't let that affect our preparation. We've been preparing for this game since spring and everyone knew we'd have Virginia Tech on the schedule. We were excited then, but we're even more excited now."

Offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley is focused on making sure the offense doesn't become one dimensional against a well-coached defense that can make a team pay. A win will take a collective effort.

"If their defense can key in on one thing we're doing they'll have a better chance of stopping it," Riley said. "When they give us the run we have to attack it, we've made a lot of progress in that area from game one to game two and we need to continue. It's about taking what they give us."

Probably the most intimidating part of Virginia Tech's defense this season is the defensive line. They have an experienced defensive front with talented veterans returning.

"(Virginia Tech) has four guys returning up front that have started a bunch of games," Riley said. "I heard the defense has over 200 starts combined, so they have some older guys out there. They have a couple new guys they've infused in there as well with a lot of talent. It's a fun group to coach and prepare against and it'll be a fun game Saturday."

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