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Keys to the Game
Friday, September 7, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 2: UNC-CH at ECU

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 UNC-Chapel Hill if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Set the tempo: The Pirates did a great job of maintaining their composure in Blacksburg amidst the most emotional environment we have seen in years. If they can come out on Saturday against the Tar Heels with the same controlled intensity, they will cause problems for North Carolina. It will be important for East Carolina to get the early lead. That will require the Pirates to establish the run against an inexperienced Tar Heel front seven. This will be the first opportunity for this ECU team to play in front of a home sellout crowd. Getting out to a quick start offensively will keep the crowd in the game.

  2. Play better in the back end: East Carolina managed to hold Virginia Tech to 33 yards rushing and had four quarterback sacks. Those stats can be attributed to the stellar play of the front seven, not the defensive backs. When quarterback Sean Glennon managed to set his feet and deliver a good throw, there were Hokie receivers running free all game long. Tight end Sam Wheeler caught the only offensive touchdown for Virginia Tech after he got behind the secondary in the second half of last week's game. Wheeler was a handful all game running free in the secondary. ECU's defensive backs have tons of talent but seemed out of position and unsure of themselves all game long. Rick Smith is one of the best DB coaches in the country and I am sure he will have the defensive backs playing much better this week.

  3. Run for show, pass for dough: Patrick Pinkney proved that he had great instincts under the center last week. He needs to take his play to the next level on Saturday. Pinkney had the element of surprise working for him last week, but this week the Tar heels have film on the Pirates and know exactly what to expect from him. His 14-25 performance was good, but he will need to be more efficient in the passing game this week. The option running attack must set up that passing game for the potential big plays that can be the difference in the game.

  4. Turnovers: I could make turnovers a key every week. It is widely believed by head coaches at every level that winning the turnover battle tends to ultimately mean winning the game. In a game with the buildup and magnitude of this one, the one intangible that can’t be predicted is turnovers. Both teams are starting young inexperienced quarterbacks, which should mean turnovers. Pinkney managed to escape week one without a turnover, but week two could be a different scene if he loses focus. Tar Heels quarterback T.J. Yates was 13-18 for 218 yards and three touchdowns versus James Madison, but he also threw an interception. Protecting the football is paramount in this game.

The Bottom Line: The Pirates are the better football team. There are a lot of reasons they should win this game — and more than a few ways they could lose it. East Carolina has to play great on offense, defense and special teams to produce the desired outcome. It doesn’t matter that ECU is 0-1 and UNC-Chapel Hill is 1-0. This will be a very competitive game and one that will be a barometer for ECU’s program under Skip Holtz. Though it has no effect on their conference championship ambitions, this game represents a MUST win for the Pirates. It's all about in-state respect, not only on the field of play and in the media but also in the recruiting wars.

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09/07/2007 02:48:02 AM


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