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Pirate Notebook No. 444
Monday, September 20, 2010

Denny O'Brien


Pirates need fix for 3rd quarter lulls

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

With any young team, some degree of growing pains are to be expected. East Carolina is certainly no exception to that rule.

The Pirates, now 2-1 after their 49-27 loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, certainly felt their share of pain in Lane Stadium, especially after leading much of the game before a 28-point second half barrage by the Hokies.

The moral to the story — aside from the fact that we shouldn't mock the Vegas spread setters — is that ECU has yet to piece together a complete game. Periodic lulls have become a glaring trend for an inexperienced team that is only three games into its new offensive and defensive schemes.

“Another part of the growth is teaching them the parts of the game,” Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said. “We talked about it last week. First quarter is very important. I thought we did a good job with that.

“Right before the half, I thought we were OK. There's another part of the game, right after the half. Very important. Then the fourth quarter. I wish I could rush it or do something magic or make it hurry up with the group, but that's a part of the game that you have to learn. That's part of the growth that we have to learn.”

There is no question that quarterback Dominique Davis and the rest of the offense have been relatively quick studies of the new Air Raid offense. Thus far the Pirates are averaging 42 points and 441 yards, and at times have demonstrated the ability to score at will.

But if you break down the how and when behind the Pirates' scoring totals to date, you'll notice some pretty eye-opening numbers:

ECU is outscoring its opponents 48-17 in the first quarter, but is getting outscored in the remaining three. And if you had to pick one period as the Pirates' kryptonite, it would be the 3rd, where opponents own a 34-17 advantage.

Against Virginia Tech, it looked as if ECU might buck that trend after forcing a fumble on the Hokies' opening possession and eventually moving to the 13-yard line. A rash of penalties drop-kicked the Pirates into a 2nd and 40 scenario, forcing them to settle for a field goal.

The ECU offense never truly recovered from that series, as it managed only 18 yards in the 3rd quarter and only 83 for the second half.

“I thought they blitzed a little more,” McNeill said. “Giving them long yardage is an advantage to them defensively. Maybe the penalties helped them a little bit, got us in situations where it was just miraculous to make the first down.

“I thought they just did a good job of executing the defense better in the second half than they did in the first half. They didn't change much. Bud (Foster) does what he does.”

While Hokies defensive coordinator Bud Foster might not have adjusted much, he certainly did enough to wreak havoc on an ECU offense that piled up 24 points and 278 yards in the 1st half. Whatever those tweaks were, they were successful in applying more pressure on Davis and preventing Pirates receivers from finding open space.

The Pirates had no answer for Tech's furious second half rush. And with an open week now separating the Pirates from their clash with North Carolina, McNeill and his staff should have ample time to diagnose their 3rd quarter concerns.

Are opposing coaches simply making better adjustments during the half? Is the ECU staff out-thinking itself and abandoning certain aspects of the game plan after intermission?

Or is at as simple as the youth throughout the Pirates' depth chart simply failing to grasp the concept of maintaining focus for an entire game?

All are fair questions to ask at such an early stage of the season. And given the Pirates' razor-thin margin for error, discovering the right solution could mean the difference between an 8-4 and 5-7 finish this fall.

With the Pirates' three biggest rivals — North Carolina, Southern Miss, and N.C. State — next on the slate, the bye week couldn't have been positioned more perfectly. It's also good that ECU's areas of weakness have been heavily exposed so early during the 2010 campaign.


O'Brien: Pirates need fix for 3rd quarter lulls
O'Brien: Tech exposes kinks in Pirates' armor
BVL Game Center: Virginia Tech 49, ECU 27
BVL Audio: Coach Ruff Postgame Presser
Monroe: Kevin's Keys to the Virginia Tech Game
Myatt: Hokies facing crisis with sober determination
Bailey: “Boy Wonder” expects more of offense
BVL Audio: Coach Ruff Game Week Presser
O'Brien: Good news survives in year of scandal

The challenge now is for the ECU staff to prescribe the necessary remedy and demonstrate the ability to adjust on the fly.

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Denny O'Brien Archives

09/20/2010 06:38 AM

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