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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, October 28, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Game 8: ECU at USM

Each week, Kevin Monroe, Sideline Reporter for the Pirate ISP Sports Network, provides “Kevin’s Keys to The Game,” outlining what East Carolina must do to beat its opponent. Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task, not only as an analyst on the radio broadcast, but also as a former defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat Southern Mississippi if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Keep the Momentum: Since the beginning of the season, I have been preaching the obvious: East Carolina is a passing team. Behind the strong arm and good decision-making of senior quarterback James Pinkney, ECU has a dangerous air attack. The passing game has been reinforced by a deep receiving core — led by senior wideout Aundrae Allison — that has proven itself time and time again. Allison had 13 catches for 138 yards and a touchdown last week versus Southern Methodist after having been out for three weeks with an ankle sprain. Southern Miss has a strong secondary, but as a former defensive back I know that a good throw and catch will beat good coverage almost every time.

  2. Beware of the Gold Rush: The Golden Eagles rely heavily on their rushing attack. They rank 10th in the conference in passing offense and 2nd in rushing offense. Against Houston, Southern Miss had 39 rushing attempts and against Virginia Tech they ran the ball 37 times. Senior Conrad Chanove and freshman Damion Fletcher carry the load for for the Golden Eagles. The ECU front seven has faired well at times against the rush this year, but the Pirates are giving up 178 yards per game on the ground and that is too much.

  3. The Turnover Battle: In a tough conference road game between fairly evenly matched teams, the winner is usually the team that makes the fewest mistakes. ECU started off the season on fire, amassing 14 takeways in the first four games and leading the nation in turnovers gained. Since that start, the Pirates have not come across interceptions and fumbles nearly as easily. The Pirates currently rank 2nd in the conference with a +0.57 turnover margin.

  4. Winning on the Road: To be considered one of Conference USA power teams, the Pirates have to prove they can win tough games on the road. All three of ECU’s wins this season have come at home. The Pirates need to win at least two road games if they plan to become bowl eligible. Under Coach Jeff Bower, Southern Miss has made a living beating teams on the road, something ECU must learn to do if it wants to be one of the top dogs in C-USA.

The Bottom Line: This is an important game in the Pirates' quest to become bowl eligible and stay alive for the C-USA championship. Over the years, beating The Golden Eagles at M.M. Roberts Stadium has come more easily to the Pirates than in the friendly confines of Dowdy-Ficklen. Maybe the 2006 renewal of this rivalry will be another opportunity to steal a game in 'The Rock.' A victory versus Southern Mississippi will put the Pirates in the driver's seat in the C-USA Eastern Division race.

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02/23/2007 10:32:29 AM


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