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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, September 23, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Week 4: WVU at ECU

Each week, Kevin Monroe, Sideline Reporter for the Pirate ISP Sports Network, provides “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 West Virginia if it accomplishes these key objectives:

1.      Expect to Win:  Regardless of West Virginia’s record, East Carolina has to go into this football game expecting nothing but a victory. West Virginia has been picked by all the prognosticators to run the table and play in a BCS Bowl, but East Carolina is no slouch. With a top notch QB in James Pinkney and one of the nation's top receivers in Aundrae Allison, the Pirates have the ability to score points. Terry Holland and Skip Holtz share the same goal of turning the Pirates into a perennial top 25 team. The first step toward reaching that goal is believing that you not only can, but will beat every opponent you face.

2.      Slow Down the Rush: The Mountaineers are one of the top rushing teams in the country at over 380 yards per game. WVU’s top running back, Steve Slaton, is currently third on the Heisman watch list behind Troy Smith and Adrian Peterson. Slaton is averaging more than eight yards per carry this season. QB Pat White is also a huge threat to run the football. West Virginia would rather run first, run second and pass as a last resort. The Pirates can’t afford give up more than 200 yards on the ground. Asking them to stop the rush would be a bit much, but slowing down the Mountaineers shouldn’t be out of the question.

3.      Attack Through the Air: Anyone who has been to an East Carolina football game knows that the passing game is its bread and butter. The Pirates’ offense has a number of capable receivers’ — Kevin Roach, Phillip Henry, Steven Rogers, Bobby Good — but Aundrae Allison is the one that can change a game. Last year, Allison had 10 catches for 123 yards versus the Mountaineers and, this year, they will certainly have to structure a defense to try to stop him. A little extra attention paid to Aundrae could leave other receivers open to make plays. Of course, its tough to throw the football when you have no running game, so the Pirates will have to show they can run the ball early in order to slow the West Virginia rush.

4.        Turnovers Must Equal 6 Points: East Carolina leads the nation in fumbles recovered and total turnovers forced, but, up until the Memphis game, they were unable to get any points from those turnovers. In the second half of the Memphis game, ECU turned four turnovers into touchdowns. In last season's WVU game, the Pirates forced four turnovers and could only manage a couple of field goals. The Mountaineers are one of the nation’s best teams and, if and when they make mistakes, ECU must make them pay with nothing less than a touchdown.

The Bottom Line: West Virginia has been absolutely dominant in its three games this year, and it doesn't make many mistakes. The Mountaineers do have vulnerabilities — they aren’t a great passing team and they don't do a particularly impressive job of defending the pass. They are awesome up front on offense and defense and will have better talent than the Pirates at several positions. A couple of key intangibles remain: The Pirates are playing at home and West Virginia's players are probably assuming an easy victory. The challenge facing ECU is a formidable one indeed, but a well-played game by the Pirates could find them with a chance to win late in the game. Conversely, a poorly-played game will surely result in a blowout by the Mountaineers.

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02/23/2007 10:32:23 AM


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