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Keys to the Game
Saturday, September 1, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 1: ECU at Virginia Tech

Each week, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the ISP Pirate Sports Radio 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 a member of the broadcast team, but also as a former defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat Virginia Tech if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Control Emotions: Saturday’s game is going to be the first major on-campus event since the tragedy in Blacksburg that left 32 students dead on April 16. The Tech players have been quoted as saying they feel like they are carrying the weight of the school and the community on their shoulders. They will come out of the tunnel with more emotion than they know what to do with. If the Pirates can be poised throughout the early part of the game and not try to match the Hokies’ emotion, they may be able to take advantage of Virginia Tech’s mistakes. It is great to play with your heart but it’s more important to play with your head.

  2. Pressure the QB: Virginia Tech’s starting quarterback Sean Glennon didn’t exactly light the world on fire with his play last season. The junior threw as many interceptions as he did touchdowns (11) last season. The offensive line only has one senior, and only sophomore Sergio Render will be starting in the same offensive line position that he played in 2006. The inexperience of the Hokies' offensive line coupled with poor decision making by Glennon could produce turnovers for the Pirates. ECU must put pressure on Glennon all game long and force him to make plays on the move.

  3. Handle the Distractions: Virginia Tech won’t be the only team dealing with off the field issues come Saturday. East Carolina will be dealing with the suspension of starting quarterback Rob Kass. Kass was suspended after an off field incident last week. Backup quarterbacks Brett Clay, Patrick Pinkney and Dwayne Harris each has to be ready to contribute on Saturday if his name is called and the rest of the offense has to step up its play in order to help the offense excel even without Kass. The Pirates can not afford to feel sorry for themselves because of the absence of Kass. The team that is able to focus on the issues on the field and not the ones off it is usually the team that wins the game.

  4. Be Special: It has been well documented how superbly Virginia Tech plays on special teams. Over the 21 years that Frank Beamer has been the head football coach, the Hokies have scored 37 touchdowns on special teams, including 15 on blocked punts and four on blocked field goals. They have 113 total blocks during those 21 years (240 games). East Carolina's first-year kicker Ben Hartman and first-year punter Matt Dodge have to be perfect in their technique and precision against the Hokies. Virginia Tech is 60-8 in games in which it scores a touchdown on defense or special teams. If the Pirates can be sound on special teams it will significantly increase their chance of winning the game.

The Bottom Line: The Pirates are obvious underdogs versus the ninth-ranked Hokies. The pre-game ceremonies will be forever remembered and the team that can control its emotions and play a solidly executed football game will be the team that wins the game. Neither team has proven quarterbacks, but both teams should be good on defense. The game may be closer than most anticipate, but the Pirates have nothing to lose by coming out and playing to win.

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09/01/2007 03:05:19 AM


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