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Keys to the Game
Thursday, November 22, 2012

By Kevin Monroe

For the seventh straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate ISP Sports Radio Network, provides “Kevin’s Keys to The Game.” In 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).

ECU vs. Marshall
Friday, Nov. 23, 2012 • 2 pm
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (cap. 50,000)

By Kevin Monroe
All rights reserved.

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This week’s keys are almost identical to those of a week ago for the Tulane game. The Pirates face a dangerous offensive threat in a Marshall team that is scoring 39 points per game. On the flip side, the Thundering Herd brings a porous defense to Greenville, one that is giving up 211 yards on the ground and 41 points per game.

The one key that I will change from last week is establishing the run. Against Tulane, I thought the Pirates needed to get on the board early and apply continuous offensive pressure to keep up. That didn’t happen, mainly because East Carolina was unable to establish the run. Vintavious Cooper struggled early, throwing the attack plan off kilter. Shane Carden seemed to be out of rhythm as well in the first half and the offense really sputtered.

Turning to this week's challenge, East Carolina can defeat Marshall on Friday if it performs well in these key aspects of the game:


The Pirates still need to get out of the gates early against the Herd, but the way to do it is running the football. Seldom this season has ECU mounted touchdown drives after receiving the opening kickoff. Last week was no exception. The Pirates stalled early because the Green Wave was putting seven to eight defenders in the “Box” and taking away the running lanes. The passing game should have been affective, but the corners played tight defense on the receivers and didn’t leave Carden much room to fit the ball in. Marshall may attempt a similar game plan, but this time the Pirates should be ready. Cooper and Reggie Bullock got on track in the second half last week and Carden got going as well. That momentum will be carried into this week’s game, and it will start on the ground. If the running game is effective, it will open up the passing game.


Through 11 games, opponents have gotten 24 sacks against the Thundering Herd offensive line. That is roughly 2 sacks per game. East Carolina must get in the face of quarterback Rakeem Kato and force him to hurry the football and make bad decisions. Cato is the best QB ECU has faced this season. He is completing almost 70 percent of his passes and is averaging 353 yards per game through the air with 32 touchdowns and 10 interceptions year-to-date. A three-to-one touchdown to interception ratio is very good. ECU has 20 sacks on the year — just under 2 per game — led by Derrell Johnson and Gabe Woullard. Getting good pressure up front will be the key to affecting the Herd's passing game and creating takeaways. Marshall has turned the ball over 17 times in 11 games.


East Carolina is giving up 258 passing yards per game and has surrendered 21 touchdown receptions this season. Last week against the Green Wave, the defensive backs gave up yards and a pair of touchdowns, but they did a good job of keeping receivers in front of them. The deep ball pass was taken away from QB Ryan Griffin, who had to resort to short passes to the receivers and passing to the backs out of the backfield. Marshall wide receiver Tommy Shuler has logged 997 receiving yards on 96 catches, which is 30 more receptions than the team's next best receiver. He will be the one to watch on Saturday.


Marshall is 5-6 and needs this victory to become bowl eligible. Last year, the Pirates were in the same situation when they visited Huntington and lost to the Herd in overtime. Its Senior Day for ECU and the Pirates owe it to Marshall to return the favor from last season.

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11/22/2012 01:28:18 AM


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