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Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 28, 2009

By Kevin Monroe

ECU vs. Southern Miss
Saturday, Nov. 28, 2009, 1:30 pm
Dowdy-Ficklen 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).

All Rights Reserved.

East Carolina can defeat Southern Miss if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Leverage the Home Field

    The Golden Eagles have been known over the years as a team that will go anywhere and play anybody. This year the "anywhere" part of that slogan has rung a bit hollow as Southern Miss is 6-0 at home but only 1-4 on the road. That one road win came two weeks ago against a struggling Marshall team with not much left to play for. East Carolina has sold out every home game and usually has a strong home field advantage in front of the rowdy Dowdy crowd. The Golden Eagles are giving up nearly 35 points per game on the road, which is somewhat skewed because of the 50 that Houston poured on them in Week 9. If the fans show up in big numbers again on Saturday, it will surely count for a touchdown or so difference.

  2. Air It Out

    Just like UAB last week, Southern Miss has struggled in its pass defense this season. Opponents are passing for 265 yards per game against the USM secondary. The Golden Eagles have given up 18 passing touchdowns through 11 games, which is just shy of two per game. ECU quarterback Patrick Pinkney is playing very well over the last few games. He has not thrown an interception the last two games and is a red-hot 40-55 (72%) passing with 5 touchdown passes. The emergence of receiver Darryl Freeney as a compliment to Dwayne Harris has bolstered the Pirate passing game. Freeney has had 100-yard receiving games in three of his last four outings and all three of his touchdowns have come during those games. Opposing secondaries will now have to respect Freeney as well as Harris, making it tough to double-team one over the other.

  3. Contain Damion Fletcher

    Damion Fletcher has been the starting running back at Southern Miss since his freshman year in 2006. He rushed for at least 1,000 yards in each of his first three seasons and is looking to become one of only eight players in college football history to rush for at least 1,000 yards in all four years of their careers. That list includes Tony Dorsett, Ron Dayne, and Cedric Benson. Fletcher has played in 10 games this season. He has 877 yards rushing with 8 touchdowns and is averaging over 4 yards per carry. He leads The Golden Eagles in most career rushing records, including yards, touchdowns and number of 100-yard games (25). If the Pirates are going to win Saturday, they will need to keep Fletcher in check and not allow him to run wild.

The Bottom Line

It goes without saying that this is a game with big stakes. The Pirates have the opportunity to be the first team in Conference USA history to repeat as champions, but they have to win this weekend to even have a shot at the trophy. The winner of this game will most likely face Houston in the championship game. USM is solid in most facets of the game but has struggled on the road. The Pirates will have to establish the run early and then punish the Golden Eagles through the air. Defensively, it all starts with hemming in Fletcher, but the Pirates have to be aware of the talents of wideout DeAndre Brown, who burned ECU for a 97-yard touchdown reception last season, and quarterback Martevious Young. It will take a total team effort to bring home this win.

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11/27/2009 03:07:06 AM


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