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Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 10, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 11: ECU at Marshall

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 Marshall if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Stay the course: The most important priority for the Pirates on Saturday is to remain focused and take care of business. There has been a lot of talk around town about winning out and hosting the Conference USA championship game in Dowdy-Ficklen stadium. With two games left, it's too early to start thinking about the championship game. Last year, East Carolina lost a crucial game to Rice by losing focus and looking ahead. ECU has scored close to 100 points over the last two weeks, and that offensive production is what makes the Pirates favorites on Saturday. Coach Skip Holtz has preached one game at a time all season, and the team will need to take heed of that advice against Marshall.

  2. Run baby run: If the Pirates can continue to operate their ground game like they have the last two weeks, Marshall will have to score a ton of points just to stay in the game. Against UAB, ECU got its running game got back on track, tallying 216 yards. Chris Johnson led the way, but he was aided by the emergence of freshman Jonathan Williams. who score his first career touchdown. Last week at Memphis, Johnson went nuts, rushing for 301 yards and earning C-USA offensive player of the week. The Pirates totaled 491 yards rushing last week, pushing their two-game total to 707. Marshall comes in to today's matchup giving up 211 yards rushing per game, including 362 yards to West Virginia and 269 yards last week to Central Florida.

  3. Eliminate the big play: Marshall is scoring 22 points per game compared to the Pirates' 32. The one thing the Herd excels at is throwing the football. Quarterback Bernard Morris has completed 183 passes for 2,342 yards through nine games. Marshall has seven players with at least 14 catches on the year and all of them are averaging over 11 yards per catch. The receiving corps is led by sophomore tight end Cody Slate with 51 catches for 667 yards and 5 touchdowns. East Carolina is giving up 302 yards passing per game, which ranks near the bottom of the country in that stat. Giving up yardage is one thing, but the defenders in the Pirate secondary must keep the ball in front of them and not give up the big play. The big play is any play over 25 yards.

The bottom line: The Pirates haven’t won a Conference USA Championship since entering the league in 1997. Last year, a late-season loss at Rice ruined East Carolina's opportunity to play for the championship. At present, the Pirates control their own destiny, but this football game sets up as the ultimate trap. East Carolina is the hands-down favorite versus this 1-8 Marshall team, but the Thundering Herd has nothing to lose and plenty to gain in terms of pride. The Herd has a solid passing game and will surely attempt to exploit the ECU defense's weakness in that area. If the Pirates aren’t focused and are unable to run the football, Marshall has the ability to win this game. If East Carolina comes out focused and plays offensive football like it has the last two weeks, it should win this game by two touchdowns or more.

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11/10/2007 02:01:11 AM


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