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Keys to the Game
Saturday, September 29, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 5: ECU at Houston

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 Houston if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Tackle, tackle, tackle:  West Virginia had the number two rushing offense in the country and a basic non-sexy passing attack. The Mountaineers mixed the run and pass very well and were able pile up points at will last Saturday. Most of the passing plays were quick and to the outside, but when East Carolina tacklers got in the open field with the WVU receivers, the Pirates were unable to make tackles. The reason East Carolina fared so well the previous two years versus the Mountaineers was because of stellar open field tackling. That was not the case last week, and if Pirates expect to slow Houston’s high octane offense, they must tackle a lot better. Running back Anthony Aldridge is UH’s big play threat. Aldridge, a great runner who catches the ball well out of the backfield, has four touchdowns in the first three games. The Pirates had better wrap him up or it could be a long night.

  2. Play better in the back end: The Pirates have reduced the number of big plays in the passing game over the last two weeks, but there are still way too many open receivers running free in the secondary. Leon Best, who began the year as a starting corner back, has been moved to free safety. His speed and athleticism should help East Carolina keep the football in front of them on Saturday. Houston has given the starting quarterback job to freshman Case Keenum after sophomore Blake Joseph struggled in the first few games this year. Keenum possesses a strong arm and has thrown for over 560 yards and four touchdowns as the backup. Keenum does make some freshman mistakes and has three interceptions to go with those four TD’s. If the Pirates can get in good position on the receivers, an interception opportunity is very probable. This is the fourth straight week I have had to use this as a key, its time the defensive backs stepped up.

  3. Overcome injuries: East Carolina has really been hit with the injury bug over the last couple of weeks. In today’s game, the Pirates will be without several big name players on offense and defense — Scotty Robinson, Khalif Mitchell, Marcus Hands, Jonathan Williams and Willie Barton to name a few. The second and third string guys will have to step in and play well. Some players will be moved around to different positions in order to cover the deficiencies created by the injuries. Good programs are able to rotate new players in when starters are injured and not suffer much of a drop-off in production. A huge key will be whether those players moving up in the depth chart are up to the challenge.

  4. Have short memories: Last week was a blip on the radar screen. ECU played its worst game of the last three years, and West Virginia played about as good as it can play. East Carolina needs to put that game behind and come out ready to play well. With one loss in the conference already, ECU cannot afford another one. A hangover from last week could be disastrous for this game.

The bottom line: The Pirates only have one non-conference game left, so every game from here on out is very important. East Carolina would love to go to back-to-back bowl games for the first time this decade. To make that happen, the Pirates will have to take this season one game at a time and play solid football on the road and at home.

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09/29/2007 01:09:07 AM


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