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East Carolina vs. Cincinnati
Saturday, November 10, 2001
Nippert Stadium (35,000), 3:30 PM EDT
Television: ESPN and WITN-TV 7
Weather Fx: Mostly sunny, temperatures near 60.

Pirates and Bearcats at a Glance

Never before have East Carolina (5-3, 4-1 C-USA) and Cincinnati (5-3, 4-1) met each other in a game of this magnitude. Conference title hopes are on the line, though the Bearcats will need help down the stretch, even with a win.

Nippert Stadium has often hosted nail-biters between the two schools. Cincinnati issued the Pirates their final loss of the '95 season, 13-10, but the Pirates got a little payback with a 24-21 victory in '98.

This one could go down to the very end, too, as the Bearcat passing attack looks to give the Pirates problems. Hotshot freshman quarterback Gino Guidugli is almost a shoe-in for freshman-of-the-year, leading C-USA with 269.2 passing yards per game.

Cincinnati Facts and Notes

Record: 5-3, 4-1 C-USA. The Bearcats bounced back from a 28-13 loss to Louisville with a 45-28 victory over UConn.

Head Coach: Rick Minter. 39-47-1 (8th year).

Venue: Nippert Stadium (35,000) is the nation's sixth oldest college football stadium still in use.

Last Week: Beat UConn, 45-17. Though the Bearcats gave up plenty of yards, this one was never really in doubt.

The Series: East Carolina leads, 10-2.

Last Meeting: 1999. The Pirates bolted out to a huge lead at home, but held on for a 48-34 victory.

Last Bowl Game: 2000 Ford Motor City Bowl. Lost to Marshall, 25-14.

FieldTurf: The Pirates will have an opportunity to play on what ECU head coach Steve Logan refers to as "the greatest invention of all time." Logan has lobbied long and hard to get FieldTurf installed at Bagwell field. A win at Nippert Stadium would certainly help Logan's cause.

Old as the Hills: The Bearcats began playing on the site where Nippert Stadium rests way back in 1902, making it the fourth oldest playing site for college football in the nation.

Football Claim to Fame: Quarterback Mike Cook was the fifth player taken in the 1969 NFL draft, and went on to earn AFL rookie-of-the-year honors with the Cincinnati Bengals. Cook currently ranks third all-time at UC in passing yards.

The Breakdown

Quotes of Note: "They've got one of the bright young quarterbacks coming into this league. I think before it's all said and done, this youngster's going to be the next real-deal guy to come out of this league. He's a mobile guy that can throw and it's going to be a real test to see if we can slow him down. He plays much more mature than you'd think a true freshman could do." — Logan on UC quarterback Gino Guidugli.

"They're a little bit young in the secondary — they're playing their kids a little bit off. They're doing a lot of blitzing and playing what I would call a soft man-to-man coverage. Somewhere along the line, they've decided to go ahead and try to get pressure. They've done a good job of that. There is no rhyme or reason to their blitz scheme. It's anytime, anywhere, any moment. It's kind of disconcerting. Normally you can get a few tendencies and make a few calls off of that." — Logan on the UC defense.

"It's going to take a really big effort, a clean effort on our part. We can't go out and make any mistakes, certainly like we did the second half last week. If we do that, we're probably going to push the envelope a little bit too far and end up getting beat. We're going to have to play clean, play smart, and go out and give it a great effort. These guys are good." — Logan on what it will take to win.

"Anybody that overlooks Cincinnati on this team is too stupid to play for me. Each game from now on literally can be the last game of the season. That's the way I look at it. Cincinnati feels that way about our game, I would think. I think Louisville will feel that way about our game. I think Southern Miss will feel that way about our game. We've got three games, but I told the players yesterday it's Cincinnati, Cincinnati, Cincinnati and that`s all that can matter at this moment. We'll be focused when we kick it off." — Logan on not overlooking the 'Cats.

Cincinnati Players to Watch: QB Gino Guidugli (269.2 ypg), RB Ray Jackson (408 yds), RB Demarco McCleskey (530 yds), WR LaDaris Vann (59 catches), K Jonathan Ruffin (7-10 FGs), DE Antwan Peek (8.5 sacks).

Striking Stat: Guidugli is connecting on better than 61 percent of his passes.


When the Pirates have the ball:

Look for the Pirates to go about their daily routine, seeking a balanced attack with a good dose of Leonard Henry on the ground, and David Garrard through the air.

The Bearcats will most likely stack the line of scrimmage, aiming to stop Henry and apply pressure to Garrard. On the back end, UC will play soft man coverage, trying to avoid the explosion play.

Though Logan won't like it, the Pirates may very well have to win this one by sustaining long drives, which will require execution with few mistakes. Garrard, along with a receiving corps that is starting to gel, can certainly do that, as they showed in a blow-out of Memphis.

But don't think for one minute that offensive coordinator Doug Martin isn't going to take his normal quota of shots down field, because he will. The Pirates have too many options, and the Bearcats have been soft thus far on D.

Advantage: East Carolina.

When the Bearcats have the ball:

For the fourth week in a row, the Pirates will face a spread-attack, this time lead by true-freshman sensation quarterback Gino Guidugli. The Bearcats should be able to find wholes in ECU's soft zone coverages, and look for Guidugli to put it up at least 35 times on Saturday.

The 'Cats will mix it up some, giving Ray Jackson and Demarco McCleskey a few carries. But instead of power, UC now uses misdirection and deception in its running game, and hopes to catch the Pirates on their heels.

Look for a lot of yards out of a potent Bearcat attack, but the Pirates should be able to mount just enough stops to secure a victory.

Advantage: Cincinnati

Special Teams: Both the Pirates and the Bearcats boast solid, explosive units on special teams. ECU and UC could both make a claim to having the best in C-USA.

ECU's Kevin Miller and UC's Jonathan Ruffin are accurate kickers. Jarad Preston and Adam Wulfeck each have booming legs.

The return game is solid on both ends, and each has been good with kick coverage. But with Ruffin's experience at nailing the big kick, and Marvin Townes' history of blunders, give a slight nod to Cincy.

Slight Advantage: Cincinnati

Coaching: Steve Logan and Rick Minter are two of the elder statesmen of Conference USA. Logan has been one of the more consistent coaches in the league, and continues to grow his program.

Minter continues to do more with less, and his teams often perform better when little is expected, much like this season.

Advantage: Even

Intangibles: The Pirates have been road warriors in the past, and the second half of last week's TCU contest may have provided a necessary wake-up call to a team that had been on a roll.

The Bearcats appear to be a composed bunch that is playing well, but the Pirates are zeroed in on a title run.

Slight Advantage: East Carolina

What East Carolina must do to win:

  • Blitz. The Pirates wreaked plenty of havoc blitzing TCU in the first half. But they looked like a totally different defense, while rushing only three in the second.
  • Seize the day. Once upon a time, the Pirate defense created turnover after turnover. They might want to find that old niche again on Saturday.
  • No help. The Pirates gave TCU plenty of help last Tuesday night with turnover. There is certainly no need to repeat that generosity at UC.
  • Avoid special teams blunders. Marvin Townes has been good for at least one big play on special teams each game, and at least one blunder. The Pirates would be well-served if he didn't do the latter.
  • 60-minute men. The Pirates need to play a complete game, much like they did against Memphis.

What Cincinnati must do to win:

  • Make Pirates one-dimensional. ECU has shown in the past that it usually doesn't win when either the run game or pass game is off.
  • Find openings in zone. The Pirates are likely to drop eight men into coverage, meaning Guidugli should have plenty of time to find open receivers in the Pirates soft zone.
  • Avoid explosion plays. ECU is at its best when chewing up huge chunks of yardage at a time.
  • When field position battle. Giving the Pirates long fields with which to work would bode well for the Bearcats
  • Own the clock. Garrard can't hurt you if he isn't on the field.

Prediction: The thinking here is that one of two things will happen. Either the Pirates get what looks to be a comfortable lead and hold on, or the two teams dive into a nip-and-tuck battle with the Pirates scoring a late insurance touchdown. Either way, we like the Pirates here, 34-24.

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02/23/2007 02:05:44 AM

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