"Unbelievable Challenge"
by Chris Stansbury

ECU Coach Skip Holtz is not exactly sure his young and inexperienced Pirates are ready for this weekend's opener with Virginia Tech.  "It's an unbelievable challenge we have in front of us," the third-year coach said during his weekly press conference.  "It will be an emotional roller coaster for everyone involved and I just hope we're not walking into a hornet's nest."

Holtz definitely has reason to be concerned.  ECU is facing the top-ranked defense in the country in Va. Tech on the road.  Add the fact that the game will be surrounded by national hype and emotional ceremonies related to the shootings back in April in Blacksburg.  Now we have to take into account that supposed starting QB Rob Kass might not play for off-the-field reasons.

"Right now, we're addressing this as a team issue until there is more information for us to go on," said Holtz.  "I have spoken with Coach (ECU Athletic Director Terry) Holland and we will handle this internally.  When the time comes to address it publicly, I will do so."

This only makes the already uphill climb for ECU that much more difficult.  Which means ECU may likely start a quarterback that has never taken a live game snap in a college football game. 

As if all this wasn't enough, the offensive line that had a full year of learning under its belt, is not as healthy as ECU will need when the Purple and Gold roll into Blacksburg.

History isn't on our side either.  Since 1988, East Carolina football teams are 1-9 when opening the season on the road and that one win was against Duke. 

Enough gloom and doom.  We knew this was going to be a tough game and a tough month.  There are positives to be attained here. 

The defensive front seven is about as strong as we have had in many years.  That same defense was a catalyst to winning quite a few games last year and it can make a difference against Virginia Tech.  The Hokies will be jacked up for so many reasons and if the Pirate D can come up with a couple big plays early, ECU can stay in this game. 

The offense can do its part to help the offense too.  Whether it's Kass or Brett Clay under center, we can't afford to turn the ball over at all, let alone deep in our own end of the field.  Chris Johnson and Dominique Lindsay must find holes and hit them quickly.  If the offense can keep the defense off the field and rested, we have a good chance at being competitive.

The next couple weeks may be the toughest stretch so far for Coach Holtz and his staff.  We've already seen what they can do in a short period of time.  So he may not be confident right now, but you can believe he will do everything in his power to turn it around quickly. 
Chris Stansbury