The 10th-ranked Hokies (2-0) blocked two kicks, disrupted another one deep in East Carolina territory and had an 87-yard punt return in the first half en route to a 45-28 victory.
"It's not just coming out and blocking a kick, it's making the opponent nervous for a bad snap or a bobble," said Cory Bird, who emerged from the locker room and grabbed a piece of turf to take back to Blacksburg, Va., in a lunch bucket. "We come out and intimidated."
Michael Vick barely broke a sweat in the opening 30 minutes, completing five passes for 56 yards. But Virginia Tech still managed a 31-0 lead in beating the Pirates (1-1) for the fifth straight time since 1993.
"At halftime I told them we probably had lost the football game," East Carolina coach Steve Logan said he told his club. "I asked them, `How do you want to finish this game?'"
"It was those other 21 cats out there," Logan said. "I tell you, they're all good."
Virginia Tech blocked 63 kicks in the '90s under coach Frank Beamer and added a punt and a field goal against a reeling East Carolina team that had practiced hard all week in an attempt to protect punter Wes Herlocker.
But Herlocker wasn't to blame for two disastrous punt attempts three minutes apart that gave the Hokies a quick 10-0 lead in the first quarter and helped turn the game around.
Herlocker was dropped at the East Carolina 35 after the ball came skidding back to him from snapper Ryan Luckadoo. That miscue resulted in a 46-yard field goal by Carter Warley.
The next snap from Luckadoo was high, and Wayne Ward burst through to block the kik. Bird scooped up the ball and raced into the end zone untouched from 9 yards out.
"We were way too high to play this game," Logan said. "It was very uncharacteristic play for this football program."
Things didn't get much better for East Carolina's offense. Late in the opening quarter, David Garrard was intercepted as he was being hit at his 17. Thirty-five seconds later, Andre' Kendrick bolted in from 14 yards and the rout was on.
Despite leading 17-0, Kendrick's run was Virginia Tech's first offensive first down.
The Hokies added a 7-yard scoring run from Jarrett Ferguson before the special teams took over again.
The Pirates finally got off a decent punt, but Andre Davis returned it 87 yards, faking out Herlocker on his final move, for a 31-0 lead. The return was the second longest in school history.
East Carolina crossed midfield late in the second quarter, but a 25-yard field goal attempt was you guessed it blocked. The block was the 78th in 152 games under Beamer.
Virginia Tech's defense, criticized for giving up more than 400 yards to Akron in Saturday's season-opening 52-23 win, limited the Pirates to 132 yards in the opening half.
"I thought we took a big step," Beamer said. "For us to have as many young guys as we do and to play as well as we did I am very pleased. It shows you that if you get some big plays in the kicking game, get a turnover, you can get control of the game very quickly."
East Carolina closed to 31-14 with 4:08 left in the third quarter, but Lee Suggs raced 56 yards untouched less than a minute later to halt the Pirates' momentum.
"I think they were taken back (by the blocked kicks), but East Carolina is not going to quit on you," Beamer said. "They showed you that last year against Miami."
The Pirates were nearly perfect in a 38-0 opening victory over Duke on Saturday, but started the game with a pass-interference penalty as Vick went deep on the first play.
East Carolina held, but made a major mistake on offense as a 52-yard pass play to the Virginia Tech 5 was called back because of an illegal formation.
Then the kicking woes began and things unraveled for the Pirates in front of 45,123 the second largest crowd in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium history.
"It calmed things down a little bit and it needed to," Beamer said of the loud crowd.
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