CHARLOTTE East Carolina ruled as kings
of the Queen City on Saturday after a 27-22 win over No. 17 Virginia
Tech at Bank of America Stadium.
"I love Charlotte," said Pirates coach Skip Holtz as ECU improved to 3-1
at the home of the NFL's Carolina Panthers. "I have always enjoyed this
city. I've recruited here for an awful long time."
Nick Johnson, a member of Holtz's first
ECU recruiting class out of nearby East Mecklenburg, made the play that
took the first-half momentum away from the Hokies, who were leading 14-0
at the time.
Johnson picked off a Sean Glennon pass
at the Virginia Tech 20-yard line and returned it to the one to set up
the Pirates' first touchdown and trim the deficit to 14-7.
"To watch this city grow the way it has
and have the opportunity to play in the Panthers' stadium, I can't say
thank you to all the powers that be that made all this happen," Holtz
said. "This was like a bowl game atmosphere for us."
With a 41-38 win over Boise State to
close the 2007 season in the Hawaii Bowl, ECU became the first
Conference USA team to win back-to-back games over Top 25 teams. It was
the ninth time since 1990 that the Pirates have knocked off a
Paid attendance was 72,169, a confirmed
sellout, and the largest crowd ever to see a regular-season college game
at the NFL facility. It was the 11th largest crowd ever to see the
"To have the opportunity to come over
here to play in a 70,000-seat NFL stadium in a great city where the fan
base was pretty much even with fans from both sides and play a BCS team
is an awesome way to open the season," Holtz said.
The Hokies are the defending Atlantic
Coast Conference champions.
Panthers/Ericsson/Bank of America
Stadium has been kind to the Pirates.
When ECU's series with N.C. State
resumed in 1996, Charlotte was the site. The Pirates overwhelmed the
Wolfpack 50-29 as Scott Harley ran for a school record 351 yards. The
crowd of 66,347 was the largest ever to see a college game in North
Carolina at that time.
The Pirates got a 9-3 season in 1999
after starting the campaign with a 30-23 win over West Virginia in
Although N.C. State blew ECU away 52-14
in the Queen City at the close of the 2004 season, the wipeout had value
in terms of confirming the decision of athletic director Terry Holland
to dismiss John Thompson as head coach. That opened the door for the
Holtz era at ECU and nobody was disappointed about the Pirates' return
trip on Saturday.
Holland took a position outside the
Pirate locker room and congratulated players and coaches on their
"It's the culmination of a lot of hard
work by a lot of people, a great Pirate Nation, as well as our coaches
and players," said Holland after ECU snapped a six-game losing streak
against Virginia Tech.
The ECU AD was looking ahead almost
immediately to next week's matchup at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with No. 8
West Virginia. That game is scheduled for a 4:30 p.m. start on ESPN.
"It doesn't mean a thing unless we
follow up and do it again next week," Holland said. "We've got to go out
there and give a great effort. That doesn't mean we have to win every
game we play but we've got to capitalize on these opportunities to show
what East Carolina football is all about."
The win over the Hokies before a
national television audience on ESPN can only enhance recruiting and
future considerations for the program.
Hokies coach Frank Beamer was beaten at
his own game as T.J. Lee's blocked punt for the deciding touchdown was a
role reversal for a Virginia Tech program that has thrived on similar
special team moments.
"I think they are pretty good," Beamer
said of the Pirates. "We play a lot of people but I'm not sure we'll
play anybody better up front (defensively) than East Carolina. They're
going to win a lot of football games. As long as they stay healthy, they
have a good football team.
"Coming in I knew East Carolina was
going to be good. They have all those guys coming back from last year,
they are tough up front and they are a good, solid football team."
Beamer watched as Patrick Pinkney
completed 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards without an interception.
"That quarterback, I think, puts them
on another level," Beamer said. "He throws accurate and makes some good
plays. He does a good job for them."
The Hokies became the fifth ACC team to
be beaten by the Pirates in the Holtz era as his record at ECU improved
to 21-17 at the outset of his fourth season.
A celebratory welcome for the team was
scheduled for 8:30 p.m. Saturday night at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. Many
were already thinking about the possibility of a celebration next
"This game is over," declared Pinkney
in his postgame remarks. "We have to get ready for West Virginia."