for this game

Late blocked punt leads ECU over stunned Hokies

Aug 30, 2008 - 9:29 PM CHARLOTTE, North Carolina (Ticker) -- A special-teams miscue nearly cost East Carolina its season opener against Virginia Tech. Instead, special teams saved the game for the Pirates.

T.J. Lee returned a blocked punt 30 yards for the go-ahead touchdown late in the fourth quarter to lead the Pirates to a stunning 27-22 upset of the 17th-ranked Hokies on Saturday.

"What a great win," ECU head coach Skip Holtz said. "It would have been so easy at so many times to just give up. We kept making it so hard on ourselves.

"We come back at halftime and I told the team, we're giving it away. Let's just make them beat us and try to eliminate the mistakes. It was just a roller coaster, going back and forth, up and down."

East Carolina (1-0) had missed out on an earlier chance to tie the game when Ben Ryan's extra-point attempt was blocked and returned by Stephan Virgil for a safety, turning what should have been a tie into a 16-13 edge for Virginia Tech.

With East Carolina trailing, 22-20, late in the fourth, that three-point swing took on added significance.

But after stopping the Hokies (0-1) on a 3rd-and-19, the Pirates blocked the ensuing punt and Lee took it to the end zone to give the Pirates their first lead of the game at 27-22.

"The whole defense had a stellar game," ECU linebacker Nick Johnson said. "I was glad we pulled it out. It's an unbelievable feeling."

The Hokies had one final drive to reclaim the lead, but gained just three yards on four plays.

The Pirates fell behind early in large part due to their own mistakes. In addition to the missed extra point, an early fumble by quarterback Patrick Pinkney gave the Hokies their first touchdown.

Pinkney tossed a lateral pass too far above his intended receiver's head, and Virgil picked it up and had a clear path to the end zone to open the scoring.

ECU trailed, 14-7, in the third when Pinkney found Jamar Bryant for a 12-yard TD pass. But Ryan's extra point was blocked.

East Carolina wouldn't let Virginia Tech run away - largely due to the play of Pinkney. The senior, in his first full season as the starter, overcame some early shakiness to gradually lead his team back into contention.

"We were inconsistent, but we knew that at halftime," Pinkney said. "We were shooting ourselves in the foot. Virginia Tech came out and played hard. But we had to take care of ourselves and we came out and executed in the second half. And that's why we won."

After the Hokies took a nine-point lead early in the fourth quarter, Pinkney capped a six-play, 81-yard drive with a 3-yard TD run to cut ECU's deficit to 22-20.

"Everybody made plays," Pinkney said of that pivotal possession. "That's what the offense has to do, it has to execute. Everybody did their job."

Pinkney completed 19-of-23 passes for 211 yards and a touchdown, as East Carolina made up for last year's season-opening loss to Virginia Tech.

Senior Sean Glennon, a controversial choice to start over talented sophomore Tyrod Taylor, struggled throughout the game for Virginia Tech, throwing a pair of interceptions. He was 14-for-23 for 139 yards.

"We just made too many mistakes," Glennon said. "You're not going to beat a good team when you make the mistakes we made."