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Keys to the Game
Friday, August 29, 2008

By Kevin Monroe

ECU vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, August 30, 2008 (Noon)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte

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 Virginia Tech if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Control the Line of Scrimmage

    Most of us go to the games to see the big play. We enjoy the quarterback that can throw it 80 yards like David Garrard; the wide receiver that can go up in a crowd and make the big catch like Troy Smith; or the running back that can take a toss sweep down the sidelines and go untouched to the endzone like Chris Johnson.

    Truth be told, those aspects of the game are not where football games are won and lost. Games are decided at the line of scrimmage. East Carolina has a young offensive line, but seven of the eight on the two-deep depth chart saw playing time last season. Senior Stanley Bryant is the most experienced of the bunch and he will have to lead this crew and help ensure that a sense composure is maintained on such a big stage. The defensive side of the line is where the Pirates should excel this season. Even with the loss of Brandon Setzer, ECU has upperclassmen at every position and should prove to be a tough opponent for the lesser experienced Virginia Tech offensive line.

  2. Balanced Offensive Attack

    East Carolina has a ton of talent at all the offensive skill positions. Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is a senior with a big arm and quick feet. He proved last year that he can win games and will need an errorless effort on Saturday. At running back, the Pirates lost senior Dominique Lindsay to injury but they still have a very formidable group in Brandon Simmons, Jonathan Williams, and J.R. Rogers. Expect to see all three on Saturday. Simmons is a powerful runner and blocker, Rogers has good speed and quickness, and Williams is multifaceted.

    I feel really good about the quarterback and running back positions, but I feel great about the Pirates at receiver. Jamar Bryant, Dwayne Harris and T.J. Lee have the potential to be a superb trio this season. Each of them catches the ball well and can stretch the field. Virginia Tech always has good defensive backs and this year is no different. Macho Harris and Kam Chancellor are two of the best in the ACC. The Pirates will have to run the football to open up the passing game and will have to execute both phases well to win this game.

  3. Win the Turnover Battle

    It goes without saying that if the Pirates don’t protect the football, they have no chance to win. A reasonable expectation is for the offense to have no more than two turnovers and for the defense to get at least three takeaways. Virginia Tech is known for its ball hawking style on special teams and on defense. Protecting the football is of the utmost importance. The North Carolina State game from last season is a great example of why you can’t have kicks blocked and interceptions thrown and expect to win.

  4. Expect to Win

    There was a time when the Pirates were known as Giant Killers, when big name programs had major anxiety before playing East Carolina because they knew the challenge they faced was genuine. In the 'nineties, the Pirates beat Miami twice, West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, South Carolina and Virginia Tech. The reason ECU was able to accomplish these victories is because its players saw themselves as equals and expected to win every time they stepped on the field.

    Last season’s Virginia Tech game was a moral victory. ECU played well on the road versus one of the nation’s top football schools. There will be no moral victories on Saturday; a loss will be a disappoint. The Pirates have to expect to win every game this season. Coach Holtz has re-instilled that attitude into the program and it has to show in the effort of the players.

The Bottom Line

IT'S TIME… East Carolina needs to put itself back on the national scene in a big way. Beating the No. 17 team in the land heading into game two against West Virginia will instantly put the spotlight on the Pirates. The Hokies are starting a new running back, two freshman receivers and an unproven quarterback. Their talent is on defense. This probably won’t be a high scoring game, but it is one the Pirates can win if they control the line of scrimmage, establish the run, and take care of the ball.

Football is as much mental as it is physical, so expecting to win and playing with confidence is as important as having tremendous athletic ability. The only way to get into a BCS conference is to beat BCS schools when given the opportunity.

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08/29/2008 03:05:37 AM


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