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Keys to the Game
Friday, November 28, 2008

By Kevin Monroe

UTEP at East Carolina
Friday, Nov. 28, 2008, 1 p.m.
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville

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 Texas-El Paso if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Turnovers Matter

    If you have read my keys to the game before, you know that turnovers are usually a mainstay. After last week's disappointing five-turnover effort by the Pirate offense, they will have to take better care of the ball against the Miners. Over the last three weeks, East Carolina has a minus-6 turnover ratio. The Pirates have fumbled the ball four times and thrown six interceptions during that span.

    Winning the UAB game after turning the ball over five times was a testament to how well the ECU defense has been playing. It also provides some insight as to how bad UAB was on offense. UTEP doesn’t turn the ball over much and it has a plus-14 turnover ratio (26 takeaways in 11 games). Losing the turnover battle to the Miners will probably mean a loss for the Pirates

  2. Defend the Pass

    UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe is one of the best passers in the country. He was very impressive against the Pirates last season in El Paso, going 38-55 for 409 yards and 3 touchdowns. Through 11 games this season, he has thrown for nearly 3,000 yards and 31 touchdowns. Vittatoe spreads the ball around and has completed passes to 17 different receivers. Eight of his receivers have at least 10 catches, led by Kris Adams and Jeff Moturi who have 13 and 9 touchdowns, respectively.

    ECU's Emanuel Davis, Travis Simmons, and Dekota Marshall have played much better from their corner positions over the last few weeks and they will need to do so again on Friday. It will take a total team defensive effort to slow down the Miners' air attack. The front four will need to pressure Vittatoe in the hopes he will throw an interception.

  3. Establish The Run

    The Pirates have been unable to run the football over the last couple of weeks. J.R. Rogers had a decent day last week but Norman Whitley hasn’t had much room to run anywhere lately. The Miners are giving up almost 200 yards rushing per game and 19 rushing touchdowns. If ECU can get the running game going early, it will open up the passing game and keep the ball out of the hands of Vittatoe.

    Losing Jonathan Williams was a non-issue until recently when defenses started keying on Whitley. The Pirates need to get that running game back on track.

The Bottom Line

East Carolina has locked up its first ever appearance in the Conference USA championship game. This game means very little in the major scheme of things, but it is important that the Pirates finish on a good note heading into next week’s title game. Conversely, a win by the Miners could also mean something in terms of bowl positions for the conference because UTEP would become bowl-eligible. It will take another solid defensive performance from the Pirates to win this game, but it will also take a much better offensive and kicking performance.

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11/28/2008 12:47:44 AM


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