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Pirate Notebook No. 492
Monday, September 10, 2012

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Outgunned Pirates turn page to USM


Outgunned Pirates turn page to USM
Spotted from the Crow's Nest
Web Headlines Roundup
Inside Game Day: Pirates get their kicks
Game Slants: Back to square one at QB
Game Day Photo Gallery
Coach Ruffin McNeill Post-game Audio
Greg's Game Day Breakdown
Game Day Weather Notes and Radar Loop
Kevin's Keys to the Game
Shaw's status unsure
Pirates charge ahead into road gauntlet
WBVL Audio: Coach Ruff Game Week Presser
Conference USA at a Glance
Connors' conditioning regimen matters
Al Myatt's Inside Game Day
Denny O'Brien's Game Slants
ECU-Appalachian State Game Center
Game Day Photo Gallery
Coach Ruff Post-game Video
Coach Ruff Post-game Audio
Permalink: Cherubini One- on-One with the Pirates
Permalink: East Carolina 2012 Football Schedule
Permalink: Year-by-Year Recruiting Classes

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

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If you’re looking for a defining moment in East Carolina’s 48-10 blowout loss to South Carolina Saturday, you won’t find it listed in the statistical play-by-play.

The outcome between the Gamecocks and Pirates was ultimately decided when the two teams exited their team buses.

The talent differential between ECU and South Carolina could not have been anymore stark. Outside of maybe a couple of positions, the talent gap between the two teams in Williams-Brice Stadium Saturday was significant.

Pirates head coach Ruffin McNeill said as much following the loss, all but admitting that the Gamecocks’ personnel advantage was the difference.

“The better team won this week,” McNeill said. “We played a Top 10 team, and they came ready to play. I voted them eighth in the polls last week, and it was an obvious mismatch for us.

“Offensively, defensively, and on special teams they are a very talented team, and against a team like that you cannot make mistakes on either side of the ball. It was definitely a game where we faced a Top 10 team and got outplayed.”

The Gamecocks’ speed advantage was evident on several defensive plays.

Part of the strategy for combating a furious South Carolina rush was to set up screens to the Pirates’ stable of running backs. And on numerous occasions, ECU quarterbacks executed it perfectly, finding their running backs in the flat and with plenty of room to maneuver.

However the result on each occasion was a Gamecocks’ defensive lineman or linebacker easily tracking the ECU runner down, preventing big plays.

The Pirates certainly didn’t help matters with five turnovers and numerous blown defensive assignments. But even with perfect execution, it’s hard to envision a scenario in which this Pirates team could have beaten the more skilled Gamecocks.

South Carolina’s talent was just far too superior to overcome.

We didn’t learn too much about ECU Saturday, outside of the fact that the quarterback position remains both a question mark and concern. A more fair evaluation of this team will come next week at Southern Miss where the talent level will be far more comparable.

Glaring weakness

Gamecocks coach Steve Spurrier obviously saw an area within the East Carolina defense that his team could easily exploit.

With backup quarterback Dylan Thompson making his first start on the heels of a poor relief performance last week against Vanderbilt, and with the Pirates starting a third string nose tackle, you had to figure the offensive game plan would be to pound the ECU defense with superback Marcus Lattimore.

But that was far from the case.

From the opening snap, Thompson attacked the ECU secondary deep, with junior college transfer Adonis Armstrong the primary victim. The result was numerous big plays and a career day from Thompson, who tossed for 330 yards and three touchdowns.

“I asked (offensive line coach) Shawn Elliot what do you like running,” Spurrier said. “He said, ‘Coach, I’d keep throwing it every down.’ We were getting a lot of yards per pass attempt and weren’t getting much in run attempts. I like when the line coach says keep throwing.”

With the heavy load of pass-first offenses on the Pirates’ schedule, the secondary needs to get fixed quick. It’s not a positive sign when a team beats you soundly playing left-handed.

Holding their own

One of the few bright spots for ECU Saturday was the play of its offensive line. The Pirates’ front provided solid protection for ECU quarterbacks Shane Carden and Rio Johnson, limiting the talented Gamecocks front seven to only one sack.

Through two games, that remains the only sack ECU has surrendered. Perhaps even more impressive is the fact that the offensive front kept the Pirates quarterbacks upright without having to hold Gamecocks rushers.

If the offensive line can remain healthy, Carden and Johnson should have plenty of time to throw moving forward. That should greatly accelerate the maturation process of ECU’s QBs.

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Denny O'Brien Archives

09/09/2012 12:21 PM

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