Atmosphere lives up to its billing at Virginia Tech

Published 10:04 pm Sunday, September 2, 2007

By By PETER WILLIAMS, Staff Writer
BLACKSBURG, Va. — It was everything that coach Skip Holtz had warned about and more.
The East Carolina Pirates did walk into a hornet’s nest of emotions Saturday for their season opener against grief-ridden Virginia Tech. Close to 70,000 fans paid tribute to the 32 students and teachers who were killed by a gunman earlier this year.
Holtz said the noise during the game would be deafening, and it was.
So was the silence when a stadium filled with nearly 70,000 fell quiet to remember the fallen.
But the noise was there again when the Tech fans said, “thank you,” after ECU presented a check for $100,000 to the fund for the victims. A larger, $400,000 check by the 12-team Atlantic Coast Conference was presented later during the game, but not with the fanfare of the ECU tribute.
Yes, both teams faced distractions.
But the Pirates didn’t play like the 27-point underdogs that they were touted to be and the defense proved to be everything Holtz thought it could be.
ECU’s defense held the Hokies to 33 yards on the ground in the 17-7 loss to the ninth-ranked team in the country before a live ESPN audience.
Local standout, former Northside star C.J. Wilson, had one solo tackle, one assist and made one of the four sacks for the Pirates.
The Hokies scored on an interception in the second quarter and a punt in the third.
Holtz started Brett Clay at quarterback. Rob Kass was suspended for the game after getting a DUI a week earlier. While Clay started, it was Patrick Pickney who impressed Holtz.
Pickney picked up 48 yards on the ground on nine attempts and hit 14-of-25 passes for 115 yards.
The Pirates have a week before they host the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill at home.