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Pirate Notebook No. 411
Saturday, January 2, 2010

Denny O'Brien

East Carolina must limit big plays

By Denny O'Brien
All Rights Reserved.

MEMPHIS – The formula for an East Carolina victory over Arkansas in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl is a fairly simple one.

Keep the Razorbacks from connecting on the long ball and the Pirates have the weapons to keep up with their explosive opponents.

Surrender a couple of big plays over the top of the defense, and this one could follow the blueprint of early season losses at West Virginia and North Carolina.

Maybe worse.

In comparing the Razorbacks to other opponents on the ECU schedule, today might be the best collection of offensive talent the Pirates have seen this season. That certainly is the case at the most important position on the field, where the Hogs have a future first rounder in quarterback Ryan Mallett.

Where Houston quarterback Case Keenum is a master at dinking and dunking, Mallett is a maestro at carving through a defense in large, humbling chunks. And he has the luxury of a talented receiving corps that routinely beats defenders deep.

“We have to be smart with when we do what we do,” Pirates Coach Skip Holtz said Friday. “We have to be multiple. We can’t just be a zone team; we can’t just be a two-deep team; we can’t just be a three-deep team; and we can’t just be a man team.

"We’re going to have to learn to play all of them, and can’t let them get a bead on when we are going to be in what we’re going to be in.”

In what may be the final game for Greg Hudson at ECU, the Pirates’ defensive coordinator needs to draw up one of his best game plans yet. He must design ways to apply pressure on Mallett while keeping him guessing with a mixture of coverage packages.

Offensively. the Pirates must build on late season performances in which Dominique Lindsay and Giavanni Ruffin provided a tough tandem between the tackles. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney must complement them by performing with the same proficiency that he did down the stretch.

Holtz himself said the Pirates don’t need to get into a shootout with the quick-strike Razorbacks. The best way to ensure that is to control the clock and keep the Hogs from connecting deep.

Arkansas is far from bulletproof against the Pirates, despite what many of the national pundits might think. East Carolina just needs to keep the Razorbacks from turning this one into a track meet.

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01/02/2010 02:06 AM

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