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GAME DAY CAPSULE NO. 11 - DENNY O'BRIEN


East Carolina vs. Southern Miss
Friday, November 23, 2001
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (43,000), 11:00 AM EDT
Television: ESPN
Weather Fx: Partly Cloudy, 65 Degrees.

Pirates and Golden Eagles at a Glance

This will mark the second straight year that the Pirates and Golden Eagles have met the day after Thanksgiving, and it looks like the game could become a traditional holiday feast. Last year's game, a 14-9 ECU victory, was marked by monsoon-like conditions and sloppy play.

The conditions will be much better on Friday, which will aid a Golden Eagle passing attack that is starting to click behind senior quarterback Jeff Kelly and receiver LeRoy Handy.

Friday will mark the final home game for seniors David Garrard, Leonard Henry, and Pernell Griffin, who lead a senior class that was as good as any to play at East Carolina.

Southern Miss Facts and Notes

Record: 5-3, 3-2 C-USA. The Eagles have uncharacteristically dropped two conference games thus far.

Head Coach: Jeff Bower. 72-50-1 (11th year)

Venue: M. M. Roberts Stadium (33,000), known as "The Rock", has been a tough place for opponents to play in recent years.

Last Week: Beat Tulane, 59-6. Jeff Kelly threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns in routing the Green Wave.

The Series: Southern Miss leads, 19-7.

Last Meeting: 2000. The Pirates won the "Mud Bowl," 14-9.

Last Bowl Game: 2000 GMAC Mobile Bowl. Beat TCU, 28-21.

Mr. Southern Miss: Head coach Jeff Bower has been a part of the Southern Miss football program for 24 seasons. Bower was a record-setting quarterback in Hattiesburg, before becoming an assistant coach in the program. For the past ten years, Bower has served as head coach, leading the Golden Eagles to four consecutive bowl games.

Football Claim to Fame: Before Green Bay's Brett Favre was winning super bowls, earning All-Pro honors, and making cameo movie appearances, the strong-armed quarterback was leading the Southern Miss program to upset victories over the likes of Florida State.

The Breakdown

Quotes of Note: “I am glad this is the last time we will see him because he is really good. He is big and strong. He is tough to tackle. Two years ago up there, we couldn’t get him on the ground. He has a strong arm, and he has the kind of arm where you can use the whole field. He is experienced and is making good decisions. He takes care of the football and is really a good player. He can run the option, in addition to throwing it. He does it all.” -- Southern Miss coach Jeff Bower on David Garrard.

“There have been a lot of them. I remember two or three of them. I remember being able to stop them down here when we weren’t having a good year to win the last game of the year. I remember up there with Brett Favre, we had to go the length of the field to win the football game. There are a lot of them. It has always been a good series. I think these are two programs that are real similar.” -- Bower on the ECU-USM series.

"This team coming in, in my opinion, is the best team in the league. They've had some real strange things happen. The two losses they've had in the league have been abnormal due to turnovers. Southern Miss is usually a team that never turns the ball over. They're extremely fast, and I think that Jeff Bower will be the first to tell you that he`s just sick at what happened at Memphis and the way they lost the Louisville game was absolutely traumatic. You have a quarterback-center exchange on your minus-six yard line that costs you the game. That`s just unheard of, but that`s what happened."

"They'll be the first ones to leave here with four straight winning seasons in the history of the university at a Division I level. To me, that says all there is to say. They've been extraordinary, in every sense of the word, both on and off the field. Almost every young man in that group by this spring will have his degree in hand. Invariably, when you get kids that are performing well in the classroom, they carry it over to the football field." -- Logan on the ECU senior class.

Southern Miss Players to Watch: QB Jeff Kelly (1,983 yards passing) RB Dawayne Woods (397 yards rushing), WR LeRoy Handy (44 catches), DB Greg Brooks (3 INT), DE Terrell Paul (6 sacks).

Striking Stat: Southern Miss is yielding just 83 yards per game on the ground, while holding opponents to 2.6 yards per carry..

When the Pirates have the ball: Due to the speed of the Southern Miss defense, and its blitzing mentality, expect the Pirates to use a gameplan similar to the one against Louisville.

The Pirates will look to execute their three-step drops, with quarterback David Garrard again looking to hook up with receivers Derrick Collier and Richard Alston on the outside, while unleashing tight end Arnie Powell over the middle for a couple of quick hits.

The Pirates will try to establish the option game, but with the Golden Eagles quickness, it probably won't be successful. They would be better off running between the tackles, much like they did in last year's game in Hattiesburg.

There has been nary a defense that has been able to stop the Pirates' diverse attack, so there's no reason it shouldn't keep rolling on Friday.

Advantage: East Carolina.

When the Golden Eagles have the ball: Quarterback Jeff Kelly is neither mobile nor strong-armed, yet the fifth-year senior seems to get the job done day in, and day out.

Southern Miss doesn't have a dominant group of receivers like the corps it last brought to Greenville, but LeRoy Handy and Kenneth Johnson are athletic and sure-handed enough to present problems. The Golden Eagles' underneath passing game should create openings against the Pirates' zone coverages.

The Golden Eagles, with running back Dawayne Woods, have been dismal on the ground, and the Pirate defense is good enough against the run to maintain that trend.

So, expect Kelly to put it up 40-plus times in this one, and the Pirate defense to bend all day long.

Advantage: Southern Miss

Special Teams: Both the Pirates and Eagles have accurate kickers and strong-legged punters.

Both teams also have capable return men, though the Pirates have fallen tremendously in this area in recent weeks. And with the exception of Zek Parker's touchdown to open the second half, the Pirates have been solid in their kick coverages all season.

In a area that looks like a stalemate, the team that is capable of pulling off a big play could come out on top, much like last week.

Advantage: Even

Coaching: Logan and Bower are the pioneers of Conference USA, and along with Louisville's John L. Smith, are among the league's best coaches.

Bower has made wholesale adjustments over the past few years, though, so give the nod to the Pirates, if for nothing else due to continuity.

Slight Advantage: East Carolina

Intangibles: Senior day has generally meant a happy ending at Dowdy-Ficklen stadium, and with a stellar group like this one, it's hard to fathom it going out with a loss.

The Pirates don't lose two in a row very often.

Advantage: East Carolina

What East Carolina must do to win:

  • Blitz. Rushing three and dropping eight hasn't worked so far. Why would it work on Friday?
  • Good morning, this is your wake up call. When the the Pirates have headed to the locker room for half time over the past three games, they have generally called it a night.
  • Sustain drives. If the Pirates can execute their three-step passing game, coupled with a good dose of Leonard Henry, maybe they can keep the Golden Eagle offense on the sideline just enough to win.
  • "Special" teams. At one point this season, the Pirates were truly special on their special teams. They could use a little more of that magic on Friday.
  • Turnovers. It has been the Achilles' heel for this team. The Pirates haven't forced many, and have been pretty generous, too. This defense needs to force turnovers, while the offense needs to protect the ball.

What Southern Miss must do to win:

  • Patience on offense. The Pirates are going to give the Eagles their five-plus yards per play. Southern Miss will do just fine by not forcing things, taking what the Pirates are willing to give.
  • Pressure Garrard. When Garrard had time against the Cards, he shredded them. When he didn't.... he didn't.
  • Just enough on the ground. Louisville mounted just enough of a ground game to be successful. Eclipsing the century mark should be just enough for the Eagles.
  • Protect Kelly. Kelly spent a lot of time on the ground in last year's game. If the offensive line protects him Friday, it will be a long day at the office for the Pirates
  • Avoid turnovers. Turnovers killed the Golden Eagles in losses to Louisville and Memphis.

Prediction: Southern Miss is a little down compared to years past, and the Pirates have a golden opportunity to salvage an otherwise disappointing season. Look for senior leadership to take over, with the Pirates taking a close one, 28-24.

Game Story

Box Score

Send an e-mail message to Denny O'Brien.

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02/23/2007 02:05:46 AM
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