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Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 3, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 10: ECU at Memphis

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 Memphis if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Run for victory: The Tigers haven’t been able to stop opposing teams' rushing attacks all year. Last week, the Tulane Green Wave rushed for over 300 yards against Memphis. The Tigers are giving up just under 200 yards rushing per game and have surrendered 15 touchdowns on the ground. The Pirates are averaging just under 140 yards rushing this year, led by senior Chris Johnson. Johnson is averaging 4.5 yards per carry and has 9 rushing touchdowns through nine games. East Carolina rushed for 216 yards last week versus UAB, paced by Johnson (86 yards) and true freshman Jonathan Williams (63 yards). Williams showed why he was such a big recruit and wasn’t red-shirted by the Pirates. Early in the first quarter, Williams made some nice moves, then broke through the line and ran for a 35-yard score. Getting off to a good start running the football could mean everything to shaping a favorable outcome on Saturday.

  2. Stifle the Tiger passing game: Quarterback Martin Hankins has passed for just under 1,500 yards and backup QB Will Hudgens has thrown for 580 yards. That's over 2,000 yards passing through eight games, compared to the Pirates' 1,956 yards through nine games. The Tigers have seven players with 10 catches or more, including tight end Brett Russell and running back Joseph Doss. This receiving corps is lead by junior Maurice Jones and sophomore Duke Calhoun, with 496 and 395 yards, respectively. The duo has 5 receiving touchdowns between them. Memphis has 25 offensive touchdowns, 17 of which were through the air. Opponents are averaging 289 passing yards versus the Pirates and have scored 18 passing touchdowns. ECU showed significant improvement last week, holding UAB to 128 yards.  Doss only has 419 yards rushing this season and the closest player to him is Pitts with 289 yards. Memphis would certainly prefer to throw the football, and ECU must keep a lid on that aspect of the Tiger attack.

  3. Maximize No. 17’s touches: When the Pirates are on offense, they must find a way to get the ball into the hands of Dwayne Harris. The redshirt freshman has proven that he is a deadly threat with the ball in his hands. Harris has been good in spurts this season, but the Texas-El Paso game was his coming out party. Harris has scored touchdowns on the ground, through the air and with his arm. He ran for a touchdown and passed for a TD in the second half of the UTEP game to help lead the Pirates to an overtime victory. Harris is second on the team in al purpose yards with 644. He is the second best offensive threat the Pirates have next to Johnson. Logic dictates that ECU needs to get the ball to Harris as much as possible.

  4. Play the QB with the hot hand: Both Rob Kass and Patrick Pinkney have had some solid outings this year, but never in the same game. Kass is the starter, but Pinkney played very well last week against UAB, leading four drives for touchdowns. Each quarterback will get at least one series in the first half, and I think the one with the hot hand should remain in the game. That approach makes it easier for a quarterback to establish and maintain a rhythm through the course of the game.

The bottom line: With ECU in first place in Conference USA’s East Division — thanks to Central Florida's win over Southern Miss last Sunday — each of ECU's remaining games has urgent implications for the postseason. A victory on Saturday in Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium will keep the Pirates in first place... and put them one step closer to visiting the Liberty Bowl again in late December. It will also spoil the Tigers' Homecoming.

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11/03/2007 01:37:59 AM


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