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Friday, November 23, 2002


ECU secondary can expect full-scale assault

Bearcats' Honolulu excursion anything but a vacation



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Texas Christian at ECU

When ECU has the ball

Gary Patterson's 4-2-5 alignment combines size up front with quickness on the back end. Add to that his aggressive, blitzing mentality, and things tend to get confusing for opposing QBs.

What should ease the burden for Troth is a solid rushing attack behind Art Brown, Vonta Leach and a stout offensive line.

There's also a good chance Robinson will see more than his token series per half, as the backup trigger man has earned his spot under center. His presence could throw a monkey wrench into the Frogs' plans.

Still, this unit has been inconsistent, while Texas Christian continues its solid play on defense. There's no question the Pirates should be able to find some success on offense.

But how much?

Advantage: Even

When TCU has the ball

The good news for East Carolina is that Sean Stilley, the less mobile of the two Horned Frogs quarterbacks, will be under center.

That could help neutralize an integral part of the Frogs' offense — the option.

"They're an option football team at the core of what they do," Logan said. "They run a speed-type option with one back.

"The (Tye) Gunn kid really made them more dangerous and did a nice job with the option. But mixed in with that is a spread type of offense where there's shotgun, one back."

Where the Pirates will definitely have trouble is with TCU's corps of talented receivers. Stilley is more than capable of picking apart the ECU secondary.

And he'll do just that.

Advantage: TCU

Special teams

The play of kicker Kevin Miller and punter Jarad Preston gave the Pirates a chance to win in Birmingham.

Preston's perfectly angled punt pinned the Blazers at the two-yard line, eventually forcing a safety, while Miller's game-tying field goal set up the possibility of overtime.

Once again, though, the Pirates will meet their match on special teams. The Frogs, led by Groza candidate Nick Browne, excel in the kicking game, and in LaTarence Dunbar, they've got a pretty good return specialist, too.

Advantage: Even


East Carolina built its reputation by being a giant killer. Though TCU hasn't exactly reached elite status, the Frogs are nationally ranked. Winners of eight straight, TCU has been the most consistent team in the league, whereas the Pirates have been among the most inconsistent. Considering the Frogs' strengths and the Pirates' weaknesses, it seems unlikely ECU will notch an upset. Frogs 27, Pirates 16.

Two-QB system proves its mettle

Steve Logan shot down the rumors before they started. There is no quarterback controversy in the Emerald City.

Instead, the Pirates coach has a luxury under center.

Not only does ECU boast a budding star with NFL potential — starter Paul Troth — but also a genuine run-pass threat in Desmond Robinson, who provides the Pirates with a nice change of pace on offense.

That much was evident when Robinson ably stepped in and almost rallied East Carolina to victory against UAB after Troth was sidelined by a blow to his noggin.

"Desmond did exactly what I hoped he would do," Logan said. "The plan that we put in here four or five years ago with bringing in a second team quarterback for the third series each half has paid off.

"When Paul had the concussion, Desmond came into the game and the benefit of having this kind of system paid off. There was very little chaos and I was proud of the way Desmond came in and ran the offense."

Robinson, who played the entire second half for Troth, completed 12-of-20 passes for 115 yards, with a touchdown and an interception. The Rock Hill, SC, native also added 33 yards on the ground, twice converting on third down with his nimble feet.

Though Robinson's performance wasn't flawless, Logan noted the young signal caller played well enough for the Pirates to win.

"He had a few minor mistakes that the fans probably couldn't tell," Logan added. "But he gave us a chance to win and to me that was good coaching.

"We had a plan and it unfolded properly. This week we will go back to our same rotation. This gives us the option of when our starting quarterback is struggling, Desmond can go with it as long as he is producing."

And that's a good thing.

Denny O'Brien's
C-USA Power Poll

1. TCU (8-1, 5-1) - A win in Greenville guarantees a tie for the C-USA title.

2. Louisville (6-4, 4-2) - Up-and-down Cards need to find consistency.

3. Southern Miss (6-4, 4-2) - Eagles must break out of offensive funk.

4. Cincinnati (5-5, 4-2) - 'Cats need help to share a piece of the championship pie.

5. UAB (5-5, 4-2) - Blazers one win away from becoming bowl eligible.

6. East Carolina (3-6, 3-2) - Despite record, Pirates still have shot at sharing crown.

7. Tulane (6-5, 3-4) - The Army jinx continues for Green Wave.

8. Houston (4-6, 2-5) - Wounded Coogs won't find much healing against South Florida.

9. Memphis (2-8, 1-5) - The overwhelming question is how patient will the administration be with Tommy West?

10. Army (1-9, 1-6) - Knights escape winless season with victory over Wave.



 Texas Christian  5   1
 Louisville  4   2
 Southern Miss  4   2
 UAB  4   2
 Cincinnati  4   2
 East Carolina  3   2
 Tulane  3   4
 Houston  2   5
 Memphis  1   5
 Army  1   6

Around Conference USA

South Florida at Houston

Stopping marquee quarterbacks isn't exactly Houston's strength. On Saturday, the Cougars face one of the nation's best.

Marquel Blackwell should have a fantasy day at the office, providing the Cougars defense with yet another nightmare.

This one could get ugly. It will. Bulls 48, Cougars 20.

UAB at Louisville

In a battle of the league's quarterbacks present and future, Papa John's Cardinal Stadium won't be short on offensive firepower Saturday.

The Cardinals' Dave Ragone remains the class of C-USA, but the Blazers' Darrel Hackney is quickly making a name for himself. His record-breaking performance against East Carolina will attest to that.

The difference, however, will be on defense, an area where the Blazers are lacking. The Cardinals secondary will be a much stiffer test for the talented Blazers QB. Cardinals 24, Blazers 16.

Southern Miss at Tulane

Fraud or legit? That's the question many are asking about the Golden Eagles and Green Wave.

Southern Miss entered the season with high hopes of returning to C-USA supremacy, only to drift into a midseason offensive funk. Tulane looked to be on the fast track to the postseason, but a loss to Army may have derailed those dreams.

What should classify as the league snoozer will live up to its billing. The Eagles win an ugly one, 17-9.

Game of the Week
Cincinnati at Hawaii

Aside from TCU, the 'Cats are the hottest thing going in C-USA. They should find the climate equally warm in the South Pacific.

What UC will also discover is a sizzling Hawaii club led be scorching quarterback Timmy Chang, who has mastered Coach June Jones' run-n-shoot philosophy. He has a deep corps of receivers at his disposal, which presents a huge challenge for Cinci's secondary.

The Bearcats have made significant strides on defense, but this is by far the most complex scheme they've faced. Aloha Stadium has been unkind to outsiders and the potential for jet lag can't be overlooked. Rainbow Warriors 38, 'Cats 30.

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02/23/2007 01:46:40 AM

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