View from the East
Thursday, September 18, 2014

By Al Myatt

Al Myatt

Numbers better for Smith and staff


East Carolina's defensive performance has undergone a renaissance under the oversight of Rick Smith, pictured in the midst of celebrating players after the Pirates' victory last December over Ohio in the Beef 'O' Brady's Bowl. Since Smith took over as defensive coordinator in 2013, the unit's effectiveness as measured by statistics has been on a notable upswing. (Archive photo by W.A. Myatt)


Big win means bigger opportunity

East Carolina made it three in a row over ACC teams on Saturday, beating Virginia Tech 28-21 in Blacksburg. More impressive is the fact that each of the three wins came on the road. Now the Pirates can go for four in a row ... More from Brian Bailey...


Audio: The Brian Bailey Show

The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. Brian's guest was ECU RBs coach & recruiting coordinator Kirk Doll: Replay show...
Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill spoke with the media at his weekly press conference on Monday (courtesy of Pirate Radio 1250; Bonesville file photo): Select clip...


Inside Game Day | Photos | Post-game Audio

AAC SCOREBOARD >>> ..... Thursday > BYU 33, Houston 25 ..... ..... Friday > Cincinnati 58, Toledo 34 ..... ..... Saturday > ECU 28, Virginia Tech 21 ..... Missouri 38, UCF 10 ..... Boise State 38, UConn 21 ..... NC State 49, USF 17 ..... FAU 50, Tulsa 21 ..... Tulane 35, SE Lousiana 20 ..... .....

Carden leads poetic triumph

Al Myatt

BLACKSBURG, VA — The late British poet laureate, Rudyard Kipling, probably would have liked Shane Carden. In the poem 'If' Kipling says, "If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster And treat those two impostors just the same ..."

The Captain, Carden, has experienced both triumph and disaster in the span of two weeks on the road against nationally-ranked teams as East Carolina quarterback. ... More from Al Myatt...

Game Day Pix from Lane Stadium

ECU quarterback Shane Carden gives offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley a bear hug after putting the Pirates ahead of Virginia Tech in the game's final minute. [W.A. Myatt photo]

View W.A. Myatt's complete photo gallery...

Audio: Ruff & Players Post-game...

ECU coach Ruffin McNeill and some of his players spoke with the press after the Pirates defeated Virginia Tech on Saturday (recorded by W.A. Myatt; file photo): Select audio clip...


Kevin's Keys to the Game

Today’s game is a big one for both East Carolina and Virginia Tech. The Hokies are 2-0 coming off a huge win over Ohio State in the Horseshoe in front of 108,000 screaming Buckeye fans. The Pirates are 1-1 coming off a tough loss in which they went toe to toe against South Carolina and, arguably, outplayed the Gamecocks everywhere but on the scoreboard. ... More from Kevin Monroe...



Irresistible force vs immovable object

The crawl at the bottom of the screen on ESPN Saturday will note that the football game being played at noon in Blacksburg, VA, will be between East Carolina and Virginia Tech. But that’s only true in the strictest sense of the word. ... More from Brett Friedlander...



Pirates seek to break Bud's shackles

Al Myatt

East Carolina averaged 40.2 points per game in 2013. The potent Pirates exceeded 50 points five times. Against this week's opponent, Virginia Tech, ECU was on the short end of a 15-10 score last season. After a 22-yard scoring pass from Shane Carden to Bryce Williams in the first two minutes, the end zones were off limits to the Pirates. ... More from Al Myatt...



Florida talent pool still producing

C.J. Maybin has always like to hit people on the football field, even when it wasn’t appropriate. “When I was younger my Dad started me off by signing me up for flag football,’’ Maybin recalled recently. “But it wasn’t fun to me just grabbing somebody’s flag. I wanted to hit. So I immediately started tackling the other players. “The other parents did not like it. So they moved me up to the tackle league.’’ ... More from Sammy Batten...

By Al Myatt
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View ECU's Football Schedule

With the big games that Shane Carden and Cam Worthy had offensively in a 28-21 win at Virginia Tech on Saturday, it's easy to lose sight of the contributions of the East Carolina defense in a 2-1 start as the Pirates get ready to host North Carolina (2-0) on Saturday at 3:30 p.m. (ESPNU).

In the second season with Rick Smith as defensive coordinator, ECU is better statistically thus far than a year ago.

The Pirates are allowing 20.3 points per game at present, which is tied for 42nd among 125 Football Bowl Subdivision teams.

Last year, ECU yielded 24.8 points per game and was 49th in the FBS.

Rushing defense is better, too. The Pirates are allowing 112.0 yards on the ground per game this year, which is 34th in the FBS. That compares with 116.7 yards in 2013, which put ECU 13th nationally.

The Pirates' pass defense has given up 222.7 yards per game this season, 60th in the FBS. Last year, opponents averaged 252.1 yards through the air per game, which put ECU 93rd nationally.

The totals thus far have come against one Football Championship Subdivision program, North Carolina Central, at home, and two nationally-ranked FBS foes, South Carolina and Virginia Tech, on the road.

With only three starters back, the Pirates are getting it done on defense, but don't give Smith too much credit.

"I get upset when I read Rick Smith's defense," said Smith, whose position responsibility is the secondary.

ECU alumnus Marc Yellock coaches the defensive line. John Wiley is the inside linebackers coach and Duane Price works with outside linebackers.

"It's the defensive staff," Smith said. "They're a great bunch of guys to work with. ... The game plan is more those three guys than it is me. As a coordinator, you try to see what your guys are good at, what are their strong points and then you let them do what they're good at.

"You watch Marc Yellock on the sideline getting the D-line adjusted. You don't see me talking to the D-line. John Wiley gets that clipboard out and he's getting those linebackers straight. I'm trying to get the secondary straight. ... The eyes are upstairs. Duane is the one telling them whether they're pulling the guard and blocking back. It's truly a staff effort.

"I'm embarrassed sometime when I get credit for it."

Adjustments in rush defense

The Pirates allowed 31.6 points per game in 2012 before coach Ruffin McNeill changed defensive coordinators and brought Smith back to the program. Smith coached the secondary for Skip Holtz at ECU from 2005 to 2009, including Conference USA championships in 2008 and 2009. He spent three seasons at South Florida with Holtz before the Bulls relieved Holtz of his duties.

"Rick Smith was a Godsend," McNeill said. "I was looking for a person who was an expert in secondary coaching. I was looking for a person who had success as a coordinator and a person who understood East Carolina University. Rick fit those needs to the T."

Smith, who was defensive coordinator at Tulane during an unbeaten season in 1997, wasn't entirely happy about the Virginia Tech game.

"The challenges will be, as always, our corners one on one versus their wide receivers," Smith said. "That's what happened to us last week. We gave up 14 points in the fourth quarter and both of them were double moves. ... Josh Hawkins gave up a double move in man coverage and Detric Allen gave up a stutter and go in a three-deep zone. We're working on the stutters and go, the double moves.

"Great defenses have to have great corners. Great defenses don't give up 14 points in the fourth quarter when they can win it themselves."

The Pirates were better against the run against the Hokies than they were at South Carolina when the Gamecocks used a ground-oriented drive to take over 10 minutes off the clock in the fourth quarter before kicking a field goal.

ECU limited the Hokies to an average of 2.8 yards on 33 rushes. South Carolina averaged 4.6 yards on 38 rushes.

"We didn't play the tight end wing very well against South Carolina," Smith said. "We got tired and we were kind of doing it like we did when we had Derrell Johnson, who weighs 260. The guy we've got now is 220. We can't play it like we did with a guy who weighed 260. We just got mashed. We changed the way we were playing that and it helped. We got a safety more involved in that part of the running game."

Smith liked the improvement he saw in Wednesday's practice.

"Yesterday, the new stuff we put in, there were some mental mistakes," Smith said. "Today, we had very few mental mistakes. I thought they played a lot faster today, more confidence and moved around."

Coach Dye to speak to team

Coach Pat Dye, who coached McNeill at ECU, will be on hand for Hall of Fame ceremonies and the game this weekend.

Dye had a 48-18-1 record from 1974 to 1979. He guided the Pirates to an 8-3 record in 1977 in the program's first year as a Division I independent.

Dye subsequently compiled a 99-39-4 record at Auburn and won four SEC championships.

Improvement was a daily goal for the former Georgia All-America.

"Coach Dye said, 'Every day two things happen. You get better or you get worse.'" McNeill said. "You never stay the same.

"I use that same term with our guys now. You want to make sure you get better every day. Not just every day but every play and it's not just on the field but in life and in the classroom, too."

Dye is scheduled to speak to the team Friday.

Ruff at Dean Smith camp

McNeill had a good experience in Chapel Hill long before a 55-31 win over the Tar Heels in Chapel Hill last year.

He attended former Tar Heel basketball coach Dean Smith's camp as a youngster.

"It was the only camp I ever went to," said the ECU coach who grew up in Lumberton. "I worked in tobacco like I always did from probably 10 years old to 15. My mom and the church saved up enough money for me to go to basketball camp.

"That was a first experience with a hall of fame coach like Coach Smith.

"It was a great opportunity and I had a great time. It was great competition. I thought it was well organized. We played a lot of games. There was a lot of teaching as far as fundamentals, which I still respect today."

McNeill's dad, Ruffin McNeill Sr., was a basketball coach. He had an unbeaten team at E.E. Smith High School in Fayetteville. McNeill's first coaching assignment was guiding the hoops program at Lumberton High.

"I learned the importance of fundamentals from my dad and from Coach Dye when I went to college," McNeill said. "My team (at camp) wasn't made up of higher-ranked players at that time but we did pretty good. I think we got down to the finals. We may even have won it. I can't remember. It was a long time ago, about '74 or '75."

Penalty flags flying

ECU averaged just 5.3 penalties per game and 44.9 yards in walkoffs during a 10-3 season in 2013.

The ACC crew calling the game at Virginia Tech called 13 penalties on the Pirates for 114 yards.

The SEC crew the previous week at South Carolina made some mystifying calls.

Contract terms allowed the conference of the host team to provide officials the last two weeks. Sources said ACC officials will work this Saturday's game.

"We talk about making sure we're doing things technically right," McNeill said. "There's three kinds of penalties. There's administrative penalties and that's jumping offside, formation alignment, illegal procedures. Those are what we call administrative penalties and we can fix those pretty quickly. Then there's what we call technique penalties. There may be a hold call where we need to move our feet a little better offensively. Get our body in a little better position. A facemask call. Those are technique penalties. They can be corrected by shoring up a player's technique.

"Then there's what we call selfish penalties, those personal foul penalties and after the whistle. Those penalties are selfish.

"We want to eliminate penalties, get them down to a small margin and we'll continue to work on that."

Breakdown in field goal operation

Warren Harvey didn't appear to strike a 37-yard field goal attempt very well at Virginia Tech in the second quarter and it went wide right.

There were extenuating circumstances.

"It was very loud and a lot of excitement on the field," McNeill said. "On offense, we have a silent count. On field goals, we have to go by movement. A nod means 'I'm ready.'

"The holder, which is Worth Gregory (punter), who has done fantastic for us (47.1 yard average on eight punts at Virginia Tech) but he's also a first-year player. His job is to watch the play clock. He looked back and he thought he saw Warren nodding but he was just going through his movements.

"The ball was snapped a little bit early but we can fix that."

Wiley appraises challenges

Wiley is heavily involved in ECU rushing defense and that aspect of the upcoming game figures to be a factor.

"We've got to make formation adjustments," said the Pirates inside linebackers coach. "We've got to make any checks and adjustments that we have. We've got to do our job in the run game. We've got to get the defense as a whole set. Their offense is very similar to ours in the passing game that we see every day. They've got a few more run plays with some guard pulls. One of the things I think is going to be key for us to be successful this Saturday is to control this quarterback (Marquise Williams) and his feet. The one play that scares me maybe is the quarterback draw. Other than that, it's going to be him scrambling on a pass play.

"I think that's where he poses his greatest threat.

"If we're in zone coverages or any time we're in a spy situation, it's going to fall on one those two insides (mike Zeek Bigger or buck Brandon Williams) maybe to come out of coverage and go contain him."

Williams has averaged 57.5 yards rushing in wins over Liberty (56-29) and San Diego State (31-27).

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09/18/2014 03:18 AM