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Keys to the Game
Saturday, October 27, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 9: UAB at ECU

Each week, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate ISP 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 UAB if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Stable quarterback play: East Carolina quarterbacks Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney haven’t looked very sharp in the last two weeks. The early season cool, calm and collected quarterback that we saw versus Southern Miss and Central Florida has become anxious and unsure of himself. Although still playing fairly well for a first year starter, Kass has begun to miss easy throws and doesn’t seem comfortable reading his progression down field. It appears Kass looks for his first receiver down field and then immediately checks down to the running backs or tight ends. Believing in your offensive line and trusting yourself to make tough throws in tight spaces comes with experience. Pinkney has seen his role significantly decrease over the last few games and is only getting a series or two per game. His confidence has been hurt and his play has shown with turnovers in his last two appearances. Whichever QB gets the majority of snaps on Saturday needs to play relaxed, be confident and play well.

  2. Stretch the UAB defense: Kass has an unusually strong arm, but fans haven’t had much chance to see it. Over the last few games, ECU has really shrunk the field by throwing the majority of its passes 10 yards or less down field. Several of those passes have been flair routes to the running backs or wider receiver screens that travel sideways. This UAB defense is giving up nearly 500 yards of total offense per game, 240 of which is through the air. The Pirates need to open things up with Jamar Bryant, Dwayne Harris and Steven Rogers running routes down the field. Both quarterbacks have proven they can throw the deep ball. UAB starts three freshman and a sophomore on the defensive line, which should give Kass and Pinkney ample time to throw the ball.

  3. Don’t give up the big one: When the Pirates are on defense, they have to play solid up front and in the secondary to avoid giving up the big play. All of last season, ECU gave up only a handful of plays of 20 yards or more — this year, it is giving up a handful per game. The Pirates are playing several young players on the line, at linebacker and in the secondary. In the next few years, ECU will benefit from the experience being gained by its youth movement, but right now the inexperience is taking a toll.

  4. Be solid in the kicking game: Kicker Ben Hartman has made his last four field goals and is really starting to play well. UAB kicker Swayze Waters has had a phenomenal year. He is 9-9 on kicks of over 40 yards. Waters his also the punter, averaging more than 42 yards per boot. The Pirates have been inconsistent in the punting game all year and had a punt blocked last week versus N.C. State. They must shore up the kicking game if they want to win this game.

The bottom line: East Carolina is tied with Southern Miss for first place in Conference USA’s East Division and must approach each opponent from here until the end of the regular season as an obstacle standing between it and the division championship. The Golden Eagles have to play a good Central Florida team on Sunday. A win on Saturday will be huge for the Pirates... and nobody likes to lose on Homecoming.

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10/27/2007 02:41:56 AM


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