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Keys to the Game
Friday, October 22, 2010

By Kevin Monroe

East Carolina vs. Marshall
Saturday, Oct. 23, 2010, 4:15 p.m.; TV: WITN/CSS
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium, Greenville, NC

For the fifth 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 prevails in these key areas of the game:

Be on Upset Alert

East Carolina survived a tough battle last Saturday against N.C. State. The Wolfpack was favored and maybe even more talented, but the Pirates played harder and wanted it more. The amount of energy expensed on that game was immense, but the game's measure of importance as it pertains to Conference USA was zero. Here we sit a week later with a conference game ready to be kicked off, and Marshall wants nothing more than to knock off the reigning back-to-back conference champs. This game is the ultimate trap game. The Thundering Herd is 1-5 and has struggled this season. None of that matters if the Pirates don’t come out with sustained intensity and play for four quarters and 60 minutes as they did the last two weeks against State and Southern Miss. The Herd had West Virginia on the ropes and was one turnover and two minutes from their first ever win against the Mountaineers. Marshall has the talent to beat East Carolina if it executes well and the Pirates underachieve.

Protect the Football

I know this key seems to get overused, but its importance can't be ignored. For the life of me, I can’t understand how the Pirates beat a team as talented as North Carolina State after fumbling the ball away four times. Prior to the Southern Miss game, quarterback Dominique Davis had been struggling to make the right throws in certain situations and those incorrect choices led to a number of interceptions in the North Carolina and Virginia Tech games. Taking care of the football needs to become routine for ECU if its wants to keep alive its drive for a third straight C-USA championship. The Thundering Herd is negative three in the turnover battle this season.

Clean Up the Basics

The Pirates were better last week versus N.C. State, but penalties and mistakes have been critical in each game. Just last week, East Carolina had two interceptions overturned because of penalties. One was for pass interference and the other for roughing the passer. Those are mistakes that keep drives alive for the other team. So far this season the Pirates have 55 penalties for 477 yards — through six games, that’s about 9 penalties and 80 penalty yards per game. Coach Ruffin McNeill is always talking about getting back to the basics and playing disciplined football. Mental mistakes have come in the form of blown blocking assignments and missed coverages in the secondary.


East Carolina, at 4-2 overall and 3-0 in the conference, is the more talented team in this game, but Marshall will be hungry. It has its back against the wall. The Herd (1-5, 0-2) can either give up or come out fighting. Each time ECU commits a mental mistake or gives up a turnover, Marshall will get a surge of adrenalin and a confidence boost. The Pirate defense grew up in the Southern Miss game and played well versus N.C. State. That trend needs to continue on Saturday. The ECU running game has been spotty over the last two weeks — both Jonathan Williams and Giavanni Ruffin gave up fumbles to the Wolfpack. An efficient running game really opens things up for the passing attach, so the Pirates need to get it going on Saturday.

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10/22/2010 06:43:07 AM


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