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Keys to the Game
Friday, October 2, 2009

By Kevin Monroe

ECU at Marshall
Saturday, Oct. 3, 2009, Noon
Joan C. Edwards Stadium

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 Marshall if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Corral Darius Marshall

    The Pirates will be facing their toughest test yet from an opposing running back. Marshall's Darius Marshall is leading the country in rushing. He rushed for a career high 203 yards rushing last week versus Memphis to take his average up to 166 yards per game. East Carolina played better against Central Florida's running game than they did the week before versus North Carolina, but Marshall is a whole different animal. At 5-10, 190 pounds, he has size and speed and usually doesn’t let one tackler bring him down. The Thundering Herd, averaging only 166 yards passing per game, would much rather hand the ball off to Marshall than put it in the air. Defenders will have to stay in the rush lanes, be disciplined and tackle better in order to handle the Herd running game.

  2. Eliminate Mental Mistakes

    In order to win games in the conference and on the road you have to strive to play mistake-free football. It's not the physical mistakes that matter most because those are going to happen. Guys will miss tackles, drop passes, not hold a block long enough — those things are part of the game and coaches can live with that as long as you are giving your best effort. What coaches can’t live with are mental mistakes. We have seen several busted coverages in the secondary, missed alignments and assignments, and improper reads. This is a very experienced and veteran team entering its fifth game of the season. To be successful on Saturday, those mental mistakes will have to be eliminated.

  3. Involve the Playmakers

    In last Saturday’s game we got to see the reemergence of Dwayne Harris. He had 10 receptions for 121 yards along with 3 rushes for 27 yards. Harris also had 2 touchdowns on the day. He showed us his big play ability as a sophomore and junior but — up until last week — he had been bottled up this season.

    Brandon Jackson scored a touchdown on his first carry as an ECU running back and we have seen spurts of his talent ever since. With Dominique Lindsay hurt and Jonathan Williams having fumble problems, the Pirates will be counting on Jackson to carry the load and make some big plays.

    Jamar Bryant missed most of last season and his start this season has been very slow. He is a starter, but doesn’t appear to be a major focal point in the offense. East Carolina needs a deep threat to stretch the field and Bryant can be that guy.

The Bottom Line

With Southern Miss losing to UAB Thursday night, the Pirates and Herd will be battling for sole possession of first place in Conference USA's East Division. The two teams have played very close games in Huntington and Greenville the last two years. I don’t believe Saturday will be much different. Marshall will look to establish the run and the Pirates will look to contain it. Offensively, the Pirates have to try to get into a comfortable mix of run vs. pass and allow their big play guys to make plays.

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10/02/2009 03:18:30 AM


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