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Keys to the Game
Friday, November 4, 2011

By Kevin Monroe

C-USA Standings & Scoreboard

ECU Schedule, Scores, Attendance

East Carolina vs. Southern Miss
Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 • 4 p.m.
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (50,000), Greenville, NC
Television: CSS/WITN

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).

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East Carolina can defeat Southern Miss on Saturday if it achieves these key objectives:


The Pirates will face their toughest conference USA opponent since Houston on Saturday. The Golden Eagles do everything well. Led by senior quarterback Austin Davis, they are averaging 36 points per game. Davis is completing over 60 percent of his passes for over 250 yards per game. East Carolina needs to be active and alert in the secondary to defend against this very talented signal caller and his very capable receivers. The Southern Miss rushing attach is also stellar, averaging over 215 yards rushing per game behind a host of talented speedy backs. They are all around 5'9" or shorter with great speed and quickness. The ECU front seven will need to stay in their lanes and swarm to the football when the runner shows his hand.


East Carolina’s version of the spread offense is most effective when it is run at a very quick pace. Quarterback Dominique Davis goes to the line of scrimmage with several play options on any given down. Once that play is completed, the Pirates have the ability to rush to the line and immediately run another predetermined play, wait for an audible from Davis, or look to the sidelines and get a new play from offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley. The faster the better, because it keeps the defense from being able to substitute or get lined up correctly. Playing at a fast tempo is just a part of the execution — the Pirates need to be able to run the football and get into a passing rhythm early in the game and maintain that rhythm throughout.


Special teams let the Pirates down in each of the last two weeks. Against Navy, East Carolina gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown to begin the second half. Last week against Tulane, ECU had trouble in the punting game with a couple bad boots from Ben Ryan. One of those punts netted 11 yards at a time when the Pirates needed to flip field position on the Green Wave. This week East Carolina needs to be solid in punt and kickoff coverage and special in the return game. Because of injury, ECU has tried several players in the kickoff return scheme but still needs for someone to step and provide a spark in that aspect of the game. On the punt return team, Lance Lewis has been very close to breaking one and Saturday would be the perfect time for him to get his first special teams touchdown.


This game will provide many unforeseen opportunities for one team to get an advantage on the other. Field position will be big and crowd noise could be a factor. Staying away from injury will also be key. These intangibles and many others will come up during the game and could make the difference in the outcome. The Pirates need to be on the opportunistic side of these factors.


East Carolina is in great shape in the Conference USA standings at 3-1, tied for the East Division lead with the Golden Eagles. The Pirates are facing a Southern Miss team that is one of the hottest in the country after winning six straight games. The Golden Eagles are difficult to stop and even tougher to score on. ECU will have to play its best football to prevail. The Pirates found a way in Hattiesburg last season and in Greenville two years ago. Excellent play in all facets of the game can help ECU lend credence to the adage that good things come in threes.

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11/04/2011 02:21:44 AM


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