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Keys to the Game
Friday, September 18, 2009

By Kevin Monroe

ECU at North Carolina
Saturday, Sept. 19, 2009, 12 p.m.
Kenan Stadium, Chapel Hill

For the fourth straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate ISP Sports Radio Network, provides “Kevin’s Keys to The Game,” his weekly breakdown of what East Carolina must do to beat its upcoming opponent. Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task as a member of the broadcast team and as a former star defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat North Carolina if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Get to the QB

    North Carolina quarterback T.J. Yates struggled last week to make plays down field against the Connecticut Huskies. Give credit to UConn, though, because when Yates is given ample time to throw, he is a talented passer. In 2007, Yates passed for 344 yards against East Carolina.

    Much been said about the talent of ECU’s defensive line, but so far the unit has not lived up to expectations. In the opener against Appalachian State, both C.J. Wilson and Linval Joseph spent time on the sidelines in the second half because of cramping. Last week, West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown repeatedly out-maneuvered the ECU rushers on his way to a career passing day.

    Yates is not a mobile quarterback and the Tar Heels' offensive line is the weakest position group on the team. The advantage should go to the Pirates in that matchup and they must get to Yates early and often.

  2. Find the Rhythm

    The Pirates have yet to get into a sustained offensive rhythm. Against Appalachian, East Carolina looked good in the first half, but did so by only running the football. The Apps struggled to stop the run in the first half and the Pirates weren’t forced to throw the football. The second half was much different — when ECU needed to get a first down, it couldn’t get it done. The West Virginia game was similar, with the Pirates scoring all 20 points in the first half and fizzling in the second half.

    Through two games, the ECU offense has lacked rhythm and explosiveness in the second half, tallying zero points after halftime. Patrick Pinkney, one of the most accurate passers in Conference USA a year ago, has yet to throw for more than a 45% completion percentage this season. Finding that offensive rhythm against North Carolina’s top 20 defense will be imperative.

  3. Avoid the Long Strike

    WVU's Brown really exposed the Pirates' defense last week with his legs and his arm. The most worrisome surprise came in the ECU secondary, which Brown torched for 334 passing yards and four touchdowns, including scoring tosses of 46 and 58 yards. If the Pirates expect to go on the road and beat the Tar heels, they will have to play better defense in the back end. North Carolina has some big play talent and the Pirates must keep the ball in front of them and make tackles to avoid those explosive strikes.

The Bottom Line

This game isn’t a conference game for the Pirates and it won’t keep them from winning a second straight C-USA championship. That being said, it is a HUGE game for East Carolina. It’s a big game because of what it means in the recruiting battle for in-state high school talent. The winner of this game will have bragging rights and the upper hand as it pertains to recruiting. Former ECU head coach Steve Logan used to say that games versus North Carolina and N.C. State were must-win games. The coaches have changed, but the stakes haven’t.

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09/18/2009 02:00:30 AM


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