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Keys to the Game
Saturday, September 22, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 4: ECU at WVU

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 West Virginia if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Contain the WVU rushing attack: The West Virginia rushing attack is number one in the Big East and number twp in the country. Running back Steve Slaton was a consensus All-American in 2006 and returned to WVU for his junior season. He is the NCAA’s active leader in touchdowns (46) and yards per game (125.5), and he is just two touchdowns shy of breaking the Mountaineers' career rushing touchdown’s record (42). Through three games this season, Slaton has 66 carries for 392 yards, eight TD’s and a 5.9 yard rushing average. For the first time in two seasons, quarterback Pat White is not the second leading rusher. True freshman Noel Devine has 256 yards and three touchdowns on only 17 carries for a 17.1 yard per carry average. Devine’s guardian is future hall of famer Deion Sanders. White is a run first, pass second quarterback who led all Division I-A QB’s in rushing in 2006 (1,219 yds). East Carolina held both Slaton and White under 100 yards rushing last year. The Pirates will need another such performance to have a chance against the Mountaineers on Saturday.

  2. Play better in the back end: If the Pirates can contain the run, West Virginia can and will pass the football. East Carolina has to be prepared to defend against an air attack. This is the third straight week that I have been concerned about the pass. The Pirates have made some improvement in pass defense, but still have a long way to go. White is 31 of 49 for 436 yards and four touchdowns through the first three games. He is a much more accurate passer — completing 63 percent of his passes — than he was the last time ECU visited Morgantown in 2005. Van Eskridge and Chris Mattocks will be needed in the run defense from their safety positions, but they must remain aware of White’s ability to pass the football.

  3. Handle a tough environment: Morgantown is a college town and West Virginia is a football school. The Mountaineer fans pack Milan Puskar Stadium and cheer hard for their team. It’s the most hostile environment East Carolina will play in this season. As a player, I experienced everything from being cursed at to having things thrown at us in Morgantown. The Pirates must not allow those things to distract them. They will need tremendous focus to be successful against the number five team in the country.

  4. Reduce the penalties: The Pirates have over 30 penalties season-to-date, averaging about 11 penalties per game. The Mountaineers have been flagged only 11 times all season, and they take pride in the discipline reflected by that statistic. East Carolina must erase those mental mistakes against WVU.

The bottom line: The Pirates will be playing a very good football team on Saturday, but they know the things that need to be done to be successful. The last two meetings between ECU and West Virginia have been great games in which the Pirates hung in until late. East Carolina has the personnel to beat WVU and shock the country, but going out and doing it is another story.

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09/22/2007 01:30:31 AM


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