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Va. Tech wins fourth straight vs. ECU

The SportsXchange

GREENVILLE, N.C. -- Close games are a tradition between Virginia Tech and East Carolina at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

The latest installment of the rivalry was no different, as the Hokies pulled out a 15-10 win Saturday. It was Tech's fourth straight win in the series and its fifth straight victory on the Pirates' home field.

Six of the eight games these teams have played at ECU have been decided by seven or fewer points.

"It's a good win, to come down here in a tough place to play against a good football team and hang in there," Hokies coach Frank Beamer said. "It's not always pretty, but maybe we're getting more attractive as the year goes along."

The Hokies had some tackling issues early in the game, but they came up with big defensive plays when they needed them against East Carolina's Air Raid spread offense.

Tech intercepted ECU quarterback Shane Carden three times and sacked him seven times.

In his first two games this season, Carden had completed 80 percent of his passes and had not thrown an interception. Those gaudy numbers didn't continue against the Hokies, though Carden did complete 61 percent for 158 yards and a touchdown.

"They blitz a lot, even more than we've seen on film," ECU coach Ruffin McNeill said. "We just have to adjust to that and make things happen."

The Hokies' offense showed some inconsistency yet again, but it put together a couple of crucial touchdown drives -- one in the first half and one in the second -- for just enough points.

Tech quarterback Logan Thomas completed 25-of-43 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns. He became Tech's all-time completions leader in the second quarter, passing Tyrod Taylor; Thomas has 513 completions.

"We're putting things together. We're getting better every week, and I can't complain about that," Thomas said. "We put up a decent amount of offense, but obviously we would like to have more points."

Hokies kicker Cody Journell could have provided some breathing room, but he missed an extra point and two field goals in the second half. He missed a third field goal in the waning minutes, but a running-into-the-kicker penalty saved him.

The Hokies decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the ECU 10, but Thomas was stopped short on a quarterback sneak.

On the Pirates' next possession, Tech defensive end James Gayle sacked Carden in the end zone for a safety. ECU's attempt to onside the ensuing free kick was unsuccessful, and the Hokies ran out the clock to seal the win.

"We believe in ourselves. We expected to win the game today," McNeill said.

Football took a backseat in the third quarter when Pirates cornerback Josh Hawkins suffered a head injury and stayed down on the field for nine minutes while being tended to by medical staff. Hawkins was immobilized and carted off the field. The home crowd gave him an ovation, and he waved his arms in the air in response.

According to an East Carolina spokesperson, Hawkins suffered a concussion and was released from a local hospital.

It took little time for East Carolina to get on the scoreboard -- 1:39 to be exact. A personal foul against Virginia Tech linebacker Jack Tyler gave the Pirates a first down at the Hokies' 46-yard line, and then Carden completed a 21-yard pass to running back Vintavious Cooper and a 22-yard touchdown strike to receiver Bryce Williams.

The Hokies answered later in the first quarter with an impressive drive. Thomas completed a 30-yard touchdown pass to Demitri Knowles to tie the score 7-7. It was the fourth completion of the drive for Thomas, who threw for 57 yards and ran for 12 more.

ECU broke the tie midway through the third quarter on a 44-yard field goal by Warren Harvey.

Tech's inconsistent offense came right back with an impressive touchdown drive. Thomas completed passes of 12, 14 and 20 yards, and he connected with senior wide receiver D.J. Coles for a 3-yard touchdown with 4:09 remaining in the third quarter. Journell missed the extra point, keeping the score at 13-10.

Three minutes later, after the Hokies regained possession on a tipped interception by freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson, Journell shanked a 38-yard field goal try wide right.

Journell missed a 40-yard attempt wide left with 9:22 remaining.

"Honestly, this was probably the worst game I've ever played my whole career," Journell said. "I apologized to the team for it. They're all behind me. I told them I would get on it this week and make sure it never happens again."

NOTES: Virginia Tech redshirt freshman tailback Chris Mangus made his first start, beginning the game as a wide receiver in the Hokies' three-receiver set. ... Tech freshman cornerback Brandon Facyson grabbed his second career interception in the first quarter. It was the first interception thrown by Carden this season. ... Hokies defensive end James Gayle suffered a left shoulder sprain while sacking Carden in the second quarter. He returned to the game.
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