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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, September 2, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Week 1: ECU at Navy

Each week, Kevin Monroe, Sideline Reporter for the ISP Pirate Sports Radio Network, will provide “Kevin’s Keys to The Game,” outlining what East Carolina must do to beat its opponent. Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task, not only as an analyst on the radio broadcast, but also as a former defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat Navy if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Win the Race to the Scoreboard: The Midshipmen love to get out in front of their opponents early and then run the ball down their throats, to milk the clock. Navy has won its last 11 games after scoring first on its opponents going back to 2003. The Pirates need to go on the offensive early and get on the scoreboard first. If the Pirates win the coin toss, they should elect to receive the ball rather than defer to the second half. When Navy is trailing at the end of the first quarter, it is 5-11 under Coach Paul Johnson and when trailing at the end of the first half, the Middies are 3-17. ECU needs to take advantage of every opportunity to score early and often, making the Midshipmen convert from a comfortable running game to a shaky passing game.

  2. Control Time of Possession: It will be tough for the Pirates to compete with Midshipmen for time of possession because, by nature, East Carolina is a passing football team. The Pirates would like to come out early and establish the run, but the passing attack is their bread and butter . On the flipside, Navy is the nation’s leading returning rushing offense from 2005. ECU needs to controls Navy’s drives and not allow the Middies to stockpile first downs. If the Pirates can manage some three and outs on defense it will give the offense some time to strike a blow and give the defense a chance to rest.

  3. Win the Turnover Battle: In 2005, the Midshipmen were negative six in total turnover margin for the season, ranked 88th in the country, and the Pirates were even and ranked 55th. That statistic means Navy fumbled or got intercepted six more times than its opponents, while ECU recovered the same amount of turnovers as it gave up. In 1996, the Pirates were positive 36 in turnovers, tied for number one in the country. Most defensive coordinators aim to get four turnovers per game, and most offensive coordinators try not to give up more than two. Between the weather and first game jitters, there will probably be several turnovers on Saturday. The winner of the game will most likely be the team with the fewest turnovers.

  4. Be Special: East Carolina returns kicker Robert Lee and punter Ryan Dougherty for their senior campaigns. Lee was a pleasant surprise last year, making all 30 of his extra point attempts, and he was a scorching 17-19 in field goals. He opened the season a perfect 8-8 and finished the season 9 for 10. Lee needs to get off to the same type of start this season. Dougherty has averaged an impressive 42.4 yards per punt for his career, but after a stellar freshman year of 44.5 per kick, his average has steadily declined. Dougherty will have to be on top of his game versus Navy. The return game will need to be just as strong and, with the sure-handed Aundrae Allison returning punts, the weather shouldn’t be a factor. Navy has junior place-kicker Joey Bullen returning. Bullen connected on a school record 52 extra points last year and was 9 of 12 on field goals. Punter Greg Veteto is a walk-on that didn’t play at all in 2005.

The Bottom Line: Season openers can tell you a lot about the character of your team, especially when you play a quality opponent. The Midshipmen will be favored in this game and will win the game if the Pirates are undisciplined versus the run and don’t play with a high level of intensity. A win on the road early in the season could do a lot for the confidence of this ECU team that capped off last season with two impressive wins.

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02/23/2007 10:32:21 AM


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