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SURVEYING THE LANDSCAPE
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Pirate Notebook No. 499
Monday, November 12, 2012

Denny O'Brien

Denny O'Brien

Offensive evolution aids defense

Harris Poll

For the seventh year in a row, columnist Denny O'Brien is a member of the voting panel for the Harris Interactive College Football Poll commissioned by the Bowl Championship Series. O'Brien was nominated to the panel by Conference USA. His weekly ballot will be published in this space each Monday throughout the rest of the season.

The Harris Poll is a component of the BCS Standings. O'Brien's ballot below was filed in conjunction with this week's Harris Poll.

Denny O'Brien's Harris Poll Ballot

Ballot filed 11.11.12

(ECU opponents and current and incoming Conference USA teams highlighted in yellow.)

  1. Kansas State
  2. Oregon
  3. Notre Dame
  4. Alabama
  5. Georgia
  6. Florida
  7. Louisiana State
  8. Florida State
  9. Texas A&M
10. Clemson
11. South Carolina
12. Oklahoma
13. Stanford
14. UCLA
15. Nebraska
16. Louisville
17. Oregon State
18. Southern Cal
19. Texas
20. Michigan
21. Louisiana Tech
22. Northern Illinois
23. Mississippi State
24. Rutgers
25. Texas Tech

Weekly BCS Standings

Weekly Voters' Polls

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Offensive evolution aids defense
Denny O'Brien's Harris BCS Poll Ballot
This Week's BCS Standings
This Week's Harris, AP & USA Today Polls
C-USA Football Standings
Spied from the Crow's Nest
Web Headlines Roundup
Kemp, newcomers power Pirates in tip-off
ECU 2012-13 Basketball Schedule
This Week in College Football History
Open date, not an off week
Audio: WTIB (Steve Logan Show)
The returns are in – let the games begin
Football Recruiting Thumbnail: Marquise Whidbee
Riley kept Cougars guessing
Heart, not legacy, swayed Jones to ECU
ECU Football Schedule
ECU Basketball Schedule
Year-by-Year Recruiting

By Denny O'Brien
©2012 Bonesville.net
All Rights Reserved.

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The most encouraging statistic from East Carolina’s 48-28 victory over Houston ahead of the bye week wasn’t the Pirates’ 550 total yards. While impressive, the Pirates have had similar offensive outputs this season.

But when you dissect the play selection that led to ECU’s offensive outburst, you’ll notice a couple of details that aren’t characteristic of the Air Raid philosophy. Of the Pirates’ 98 offensive plays, there were 54 runs.

Not exactly what you expect from the package that offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley brought over from Texas Tech. The net result was an unheard of 28-minute time of possession advantage for ECU.

“We expect to get a number of plays,” Pirates Coach Ruffin McNeill said following the Pirates’ win over Houston. “The more comfortable (quarterback) Shane (Carden) becomes with the offense, the hurry up part, you’ll see that. We expect to be 80-plus plays.

"Time of possession was pretty good. Forty-four minutes is pretty good controlling the football. We probably could have been over 100 (plays), but I thought Lincoln did a good job icing the game. We did a good job massaging the clock.”

That’s an understatement. Just like you can’t overstate the importance of the Pirates’ newfound ability to control the clock.

The more the ECU offense is on the field, the fewer opportunities for the Pirates’ porous secondary to get torched for long distance scores. Just consider that Houston needed less than 16 minutes of game clock to score 28 points, and each of its scoring drives consumed less than two minutes.

So credit Riley for drafting a game plan, and making the necessary adjustments after kickoff, that kept the Houston offense on the sidelines. Riley’s evolution of the offense and overall flexibility to adapt to his team’s strengths demonstrates his growing maturity as a coordinator.

Two weaker opponents remain on the Pirates’ schedule, though both, like most teams within Conference USA, are more than capable of scoring points. The more time the ECU defense is on the field, the more likely the Pirates are to experience an upset.

If East Carolina continues to evolve its ground attack, that shouldn’t occur.

Spreading the wealth

Some of the Pirates’ recent offensive success can undeniably be attributed to the caliber of defenses they’ve been facing.

But that should not take away from the degree to which East Carolina has executed and made significant strides since struggling during the early stages of the season.

As Carden has matured, he’s become less fixated on superstar receiver Justin Hardy. He has also become much better at picking up blitzes, identifying hot routes, and running through progressions when the protection provides the time.

That manifested into nine receivers catching passes against Houston, with no one catching more than six balls.

“We had those receivers there,” Carden said. “It was never really a confidence thing with them. It was just today. We got them the ball more. We want that. We want everyone touching the ball and we want everyone to score.

"When we’re working like that, the offense flows better.”

If Carden continues to distribute the ball like that, it will help eliminate double teams on Hardy and open more possibilities downfield.

Motivating criticism

Don’t think players read Internet message boards, hear insults from the stands, or read the opinions of media pundits?

Think again.

Following the Pirates’ win over Houston, Pirates linebacker Jeremy Grove confirmed that the outcry over ECU’s 56-28 loss to Navy provided motivation to prove both fans and the press wrong.

“Last week motivated us a lot,” Grove said. “All the talk did as well. All the non-believers.

“Even last week during the game, we were hearing stuff from people out wearing purple and yellow. We took that and turned it into motivation.”

With the Pirates facing two lightweight opponents to close the season, it will be interesting to see how they respond. Will the motivating criticism propel them to convincingly win out, or will ECU play down to the competition?

E-mail Denny O'Brien

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11/11/2012 10:02 PM

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