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Keys to the Game
Friday, October 7, 2011

By Kevin Monroe

C-USA Standings & Scoreboard

ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance

East Carolina at Houston
Saturday, Oct. 8, 2011, 7 p.m.
Robertson Stadium (cap. 32,000), Houston, TX
TV: CBS Sports Network

For the sixth 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 Houston Saturday night if it achieves these key objectives:


This key is starting to get a little repetitive, but there is no need for me to list any other keys if the Pirates don’t stop turning the ball over. East Carolina is last in the nation in turnovers with 17 through 4 games — 7 interceptions and a mind-boggling 10 fumbles. Coach Ruffin McNeill speaks about daily ball control drills that the offensive goes through, but, when the lights go on, it's up to the players to take care of the ball. The one thing we can be sure of is that everyone is fed up with the turnovers and anybody who fumbles the ball on Saturday will be on a very short leash. Houston has the best offense ECU will see all year. With that in mind, the Pirates cannot afford to give the Cougars any extra possessions.


The Houston offense, led by quarterback Case Keenum, is one of the most prolific offenses in the country. The Cougars are averaging 45 points per game, and Keenum is passing for 451 yards per game. Keenum runs this Cougar show like a magician. After throwing for over 5,000 yards as a sophomore and more than 5,600 as a junior, he has the opportunity to be the first QB in FBS history to have three seasons of at least 5,000 yards. With 202 passing yards on Saturday, Keenum will pass Texas Tech’s Graham Harrell for second place on the all-time passing yardage list with 15,794. Ironically, Harrell piloted the Air Raid offense at Tech during Coach Ruff's stint on the Red Raiders staff. Houston is going to pile up yardage between the 20s because its offense is nearly unstoppable, but the Pirates need to be tough in the red zone and limit the Cougars to field goals. Coming into this game, ECU is holding opponents to under 200 yards passing and has only given up 5 touchdown passes, including two circus catches last week versus North Carolina.


If you are around Coach McNeil enough, you'll often hear him say, “Football is about blocking and tackling.” To a certain extent he is exactly right, but there are a few other things that are important when it comes to wins and losses. Things like finishing games and playing four quarters of football. Things like taking a sack or throwing the football out of bounds instead of throwing interceptions. Things like being perfect on special teams by making crucial kicks and by not giving up a big returns. Houston’s offense will make the Pirates pay if they make mistakes. Being fundamentally sound is the only way ECU gets this victory.


The Pirates are 1-0 in Conference USA and every conference game is a must-win. It’s no secret that Houston was picked by most of the experts to win Conference USA and its 5-0 record is proof that it is on its way to proving the prognosticators right. Beating the Cougars on the road will be a huge feat if the Pirates can pull it off. East Carolina's blueprint for victory revolves around protecting the football, playing fundamentally sound and not letting Keenum go nuts. Now all the Pirates have to do is put the plan into action.

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10/07/2011 03:12:33 AM


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