Virginia Tech's money folks could make large coin if they hold a raffle. Winner gets to stand on the sideline at Lane Stadium and actually tear off the symbolic redshirt from quarterback Tyrod Taylor and take his headset as he runs onto the field.
Depending on your loyalties, Tech absorbed a well-deserved 27-22 loss to East Carolina, or the Pirates emerged from Bank of America Stadium with a well-deserved victory. No argument with either description.
The Hokies' BCS conference pedigree and preseason national ranking masked a team with beaucoup new faces and one of its most gifted players on the shelf until further notice — two, if you count all-conference cornerback Macho Harris, who didn't make the trip because of a foot injury.
East Carolina's relative obscurity masked a team that returned 16 starters from a group that essentially stood toe-to-toe with the eventual ACC champion Hokies last year, in their house in a 17-7 loss, and won a bowl game.
"We play a lot of people," Tech coach Frank Beamer said, "but I'm not sure we'll play anybody better than a group, up front, than East Carolina. They're going to win a lot of football games. As long as they stay healthy, they have a good team."
Prudent scheduling and old-fashioned ability accounted for Tech's 31-2 record against unranked, non-conference opponents over the past decade.
East Carolina schedules regionally and ambitiously outside of its home in the geographically dysfunctional and second-tier Conference USA, turning affairs such as Saturday, in the Carolina Panthers' house, into bowl games.
"It really is an awesome win," Pirates athletic director Terry Holland said. "The great thing about it is, particularly for those guys that were on the team that played here in 2004 and got killed by an N.C. State team that wasn't even a bowl team, it just shows how far this program has come and what a great job these coaches have done. It's a wonderful thing for East Carolina."
The Pirates spotted Virginia Tech two touchdowns in a game in which both sides had plenty of motivational fodder. The Hokies felt as if they squandered short-field opportunities in the first half, while ECU reasoned that mistakes helped Tech to a lead.
ECU regrouped, limiting the Hokies to 118 yards in the second half in its first regular-season win against a ranked opponent since 2002.
"It was big," ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney said in the happy aftermath of Saturday's performance. "But at the same time, you come into the game expecting to win, and when you believe and play as a team, everything else takes care of itself."
Pinkney orchestrated the Pirates' attack, providing the kind of dual threat that Virginia Tech lacked. He completed 19 of 23 passes for 211 yards, throwing for one score and running for another, and nimbly avoided what pass rush the Hokies could muster.
His counterpart, Tech's Sean Glennon, was merely solid on a day when the Hokies needed more. After throwing just three interceptions in 207 attempts last year during the regular season, he threw two picks in the first half Saturday — the second of which gave ECU life, and a touchdown, just before halftime.
"If I could take away a couple plays, I thought I played well," Glennon said, "but I can't take away a couple plays."
It's unfair to pin the blame on Glennon when the Hokies' shortcomings were fairly comprehensive. The defense didn't tackle well. The tailbacks didn't look like feature backs. The wide receivers, save for freshman Dyrell Roberts' 62-yard reception, mostly looked and played young.
On special teams, Tech doinked a field-goal try, missed an extra point, and the big one: a blocked punt returned for the winning touchdown — a particularly egregious insult for a program that makes a living on such plays.
Larger point being: On a team without the margin for error of previous editions, an extra body on the offensive side of the ball helps.
Asked if Tech possesses enough weapons with Taylor modeling a headset, offensive coordinator and fan punching bag Bryan Stinespring rattled off the capabilities of Glennon, tight ends Greg Boone and Andre Smith, backs Kenny Lewis and Darren Evans, and the young receivers.
Asked again, Stinespring smiled and said, "I don't think anybody ever has enough. It's not preseason NFL. We don't go out and make a trade. I don't think you ever really have everything, but yeah, we have enough. Absolutely."
Time will tell. The revolution is still at least two weeks away.
Dave Fairbank can be reached at 247-4637 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org