No. 22 Virginia Tech won a defensive struggle Thursday night, topping East Carolina 16-3 in front of a crowd of 43,569 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.
Having suffered consecutive conference losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, the Hokies (6-3, 3-2) relied on their defense to hold the Pirates (5-4, 4-1) to just 277 total yards and a season-low three points on the night. East Carolina's three points are the fewest in a single game since November 15, 2008 at Southern Miss.
Patrick Pinkney converted 16 of 33 passes for 167 yards. He was sacked once and threw one late interception on his own 13 yard line that sealed the game for the Hokies.
Virginia Tech's defense also managed to contain Dwayne Harris, who was held to just 45 yards receiving and 10 yards rushing.
"It has been a tough last few weeks but I am pround of our players working through it," head coach Frank Beamer said. "To come out and beat East Carolina was no small feat tonight. Those guys can really play and they looked the part tonight."
The Hokies scored first after a 33-yard punt return by Jayron Hosley which set them up on the Pirate 31-yard line. The ECU defense, led by C.J. Wilson, stepped up to hold the Hokies to a 41-yard field goal that gave Virginia Tech a 3-0 lead with 8:59 left in the first quarter.
The Pirate defense then stopped the Hokies again, holding Virginia Tech to another field goal, making it a 6-0 game with under a minute left in the quarter.
ECU's offense was plauged by miscues and penalties, the biggest a touchdown run by Dominique Lindsay that was called back because of a holding call. ECU's Rob Kass fumbled on the next play and the Hokies recovered.
Kass also injured his knee on the play and did not return.
The Pirates dodged another bullet later as Ryan Williams broke three tackles at the line of scrimmage and rushed 46 yards to the ECU 29 yard line. The defense then responded again as Van Eskridge forced a Tyrod Taylor fumble into the endzone for a touchback.
"We knew it was going to be a low scoring game," Holtz stated. "Virginia Tech doesn't turn the ball over very much. They had that turnover at the goal line but it really didn't cost them much at all. We had a chance on one of the situations, but just couldn't come up with the ball. I am proud of the way our defense competed."
The East Carolina defense was led by Jeremy Chambliss who registered ten tackles, one sack and three tackles for loss.
The only touchdown allowed by either team occurred with two minutes left in the first half when Taylor rushed for 13 yards on a quarterback keeper to make the score 13-0 in favor of the visitors.
The Pirates fired back on the ensuing drive as Pinkney led the team 73 yards down to the Hokie seven-yard line. Ben Hartman connected on a 24-yard fied goal to put ECU on the board as time expired.
In the second half, Virginia Tech managed its lead and the clock by keeping it on the ground.
Williams, who was kept in check by the Pirate defense in the first half, finished the game with 26 carries for a season-high 179 yards, leading the Hokie rush attack that accumulated 242 total yards. Williams has now rushed for over 1,000 yards this season.
"Two weeks ago, this was the No. 4 team in the nation," Holtz explained. "I have always had a great deal of respect for Frank Beamer's program. They are not going to beat themselves and they don't turn the ball over. Give them credit because they came in here and won this football game. We had our opportunities but didn't
capitalize on them."
The Pirates return to the field on Nov. 15 as they continue conference play with a contest at Tulsa. The kickoff is slated for 8:15 p.m. and will be broadcast on ESPN2.