Keys to the Game
Friday, October 11, 2013

By Kevin Monroe

For the eighth straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate IMG Sports 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).

East Carolina at Tulane
Saturday, Oct. 12, 2013 • 3:30 pm
Mercedes-Benz Superdome (cap. 69,703)


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By Kevin Monroe
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East Carolina has to go on the road for the third straight week when it faces Tulane on Saturday in New Orleans. The Green Wave is 4-2 and will be looking to measure itself against the best in Conference USA. ECU is picked to finish first in the East Division and poses the toughest C-USA threat the Green Wave has seen thus far. The Pirates can beat Tulane if they perform well in these key aspects of the game:


What many observers might not realize is that playing on the road in a hostile environment is actually easier than playing in front of a sparse crowd. When I was a senior at ECU in 1999, we played at South Carolina in front of 90,000 angry fans and played one of the best games we played all year, winning by more than two touchdowns. That same year we went to Birmingham to play UAB in a 90,000-seat stadium that had about 4,000 fans in it and we lost. We knew that we were the better team, but we couldn’t get ourselves pumped up enough to raise our intensity to where it needed to be to win the ball game. On Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, there won’t be more than 15,000 fans. The Pirates can’t use that as an excuse to not bring their intensity level up. They have to motivate themselves and not rely on the crowd to do it.


Through six games, Green Wave defenders have picked off 11 passes and recovered 7 fumbles. They are the best in the country in turnovers gained. They have turned those 18 takeaways into 58 points. Their 11 interceptions are first in Conference USA and second nationally behind Virginia Tech. Cornerback Lorenzo Doss has 4 interceptions in six games and was named National Defensive Back of the Week and National Defender of the Week by the College Football Performance Award. Shane Carden will need to make smart decisions in the passing game and the running backs and receivers will need to protect the football once they possess it. Turning it over to the Green Wave almost always results in points for them.


The Pirates have lost three players to suspension over the last two weeks. They have lost triple that to injuries, including two starting linebackers, a starting corner and others. The mantra of this team is, 'Next man up.' When somebody goes down, the player behind him has to step up — not only step up, but play well. The last two weeks it was Chrishon Rose and Chris Hairston who stepped up for fallen Pirates. They will have to continue that this week and freshman receiver Isaiah Jones will be key as well. The health of a program can be measured by the depth of that program. The Pirates are proving to have depth in quantity and quality.


There probably won’t be 12,000 fans in New Orleans on Saturday, but that can’t matter to the Pirates. They will have to go into the Superdome and play like their championship hopes are on the line — because they are. Protecting the football will be the most important priority. If East Carolina can do that, it will win this game.

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10/11/2013 04:59 AM