Pirates to play Virginia Tech without Grove and TudorPublished 9:08pm Monday, September 9, 2013
GREENVILLE — The Pirates have momentum and confidence going into their Week 3 showdown with Virginia Tech, but they will not have starting inside linebackers Jeremy Grove and Kyle Tudor, who have both been ruled out for Saturday’s game due to injuries.
Grove, a junior three-year starter for East Carolina, sustained a chest injury during East Carolina’s 31-13 win over Florida Atlantic University, while the senior Tudor injured his right shoulder.
On Monday, East Carolina coach Ruffin McNeill gave a mixed response when asked how long he expected the duo to be out saying, “It will be for a while, but they will get back quick. They’re pretty tough hombres.”
Both Grove and Tudor where preseason all-Conference USA selections by Phil Steele Publications and are the Pirates’ fourth-leading tacklers with nine stops each.
Taking the place of Grove at Mike linebacker will be 6-2, 228-pound junior Zeek Bigger, who has seven tackles on the year, while 6-1, 240-pound junior Brandon Williams (eight tackles) will start at Buck linebacker.
Senior Ty Holmes is expected to back up Bigger and true freshman Davaris Brunson will be behind Williams.
Not having Grove and Tudor is a big blow to a Pirates defense that gave a solid performance against FAU on Thursday, but the unit will not alter its strategy going into this week’s game.
“It doesn’t change our defense,” McNeill said. “What you miss and you can’t replace is the experience from the battles that Kyle Tudor and Jeremy Grove have gone through. … Our game plan won’t change. … We expect no drop off, not a bit with any of those guys playing.”
Virginia Tech (1-1, ACC) holds a 12-5 lifetime record against East Carolina (2-0, C-USA), and after losing its first game of the year to No. 1 ranked Alabama, 35-10, rebounded with a 45-3 thrashing of Western Carolina.
The last time the Pirates topped the Hokies was in 2008 when T.J. Lee blocked a punt late in the game and returned it for a touchdown to upset the 17th-ranked Hokies in Charlotte.
Pirates defense, running backs rebound
The Pirates defense and running backs turned in subpar performances during their season opening win over Old Dominion, but both units rebounded nicely last week against FAU.
After mustering two sacks and surrendering 370 passing yards versus the Monarch, the ECU defense yielded only 178 passing yards against the Owls and racked up six sacks in an encouraging effort.
“The defense I thought did a great job,” McNeill said. “We ask them to respond with great run-gap and pass-gap integrity and I thought it was evident that we did that, up front especially.
“Our pass rush lanes were so much better from Week 1 to week 2 and I was really proud of that group. Turnovers are huge and we had four.”
Vintavious Cooper returned to last year’s form by rushing for 95 yards and a score on 20 attempts to spearhead an effective ground attack that produced only 34 yards versus ODU.
“I thought we established our run attack and run game,” McNeill said. “I thought (ECU offensive coordinator) Lincoln (Riley) and the staff did a good job of formulating the game plan and the kids did a good job of following what we wanted.”
Aside from loss of Grove and Tudor, the Pirates will also be without defensive back Terrell Richardson (knee), while defensive end Jeton Beavers (leg) is listed as questionable.