Virginia Tech is on the horizon and its hard to look at head coach Frank Beamer's team and not talk about “Beamerball.” When East Carolina makes the trek to Blacksburg, Va., there will be a special teams battle awaiting.
Last time the Pirates and Hokies met, it was an uncharacteristically poor showing on special teams from both parties. Kicker Cody Journell missed both of his field goal attempts in what ended up being a narrow 15-10 win for Virginia Tech.
This time around, Virginia Tech looks much more fine-tuned on special teams. Joey Slye took over the reigns at placekicker and has made two of his three attempts through two games. His longest field goal was a 27-yarder and his only miss was a 46-yard attempt against Ohio State this past Saturday.
Warren Harvey has shouldered a decent load in ECU's first two games and proven he can handle it. He's made four of his first five attempts with the longest being a 40-yard kick that sailed right through the uprights in Williams-Brice Stadium against South Carolina.
“It's always nice getting that game experience,” said the senior kicker. “The more times you're out there, the more comfortable it gets. I'm very fortunate to get the opportunity to score some points and we'll definitely carry that into the rest of the season.”
Harvey was busy right away last Saturday. Quarterback Shane Carden led the way as the Pirates marched down the field on their two opening drives. However, South Carolina stalled them in the red zone both times, so Harvey was called upon to salvage three points.
The one field goal he didn't convert was a block by the Gamecocks. Special teams coordinator Kirk Doll is intent on correcting some of those mistakes that were made against South Carolina.
“We had one breakdown in kickoff coverage, which we got fixed as the game went on,” Doll said. “We had one in field goal protection. That was disappointing. So, we're working really hard on that.”
The Pirates will be on the lookout for kick return coverage. Between Deon Newsome and Demitri Knowles from South Carolina and Adrian Wilkins from North Carolina Central, ECU has faced some talented kick returners. To combat “Beamerball,” return coverage will have to be emphasized.
“(Virginia Tech) has a great punt returner,” Doll told Inside ECU Sports. “He's really good and he's also on the kickoff return. We worked on both of those (Tuesday) and we'll work on it again on (Wednesday) and Thursday.”
Doll continued, saying that a focal point has to be each player knowing his responsibility. “Each person has to understand his discipline of what lanes and how to cover and, obviously, be able to read their returns,” he said.
There's a lot to like in what ECU's special teams has done so far this season. The Pirates had some slip ups against the Gamecocks, but now they're able to look back at the tape and correct the mistakes as they prepare for some “Beamerball” on Saturday.