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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 11, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Game 10: ECU vs. Marshall

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 Marshall if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Emotion: East Carolina is playing Marshall as the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, IN, is poised to screen the "We Are Marshall" movie next week. The movie, set to open nationwide on Dec. 22, is centered on the rebuilding of the Marshall football program after most of the team was killed in a plane crash on Nov. 14, 1970, on the return trip home from Greenville, where the Thundering Herd had played a hard-fought game at East Carolina. Last season marked the 35th anniversary of the crash and the game in Huntington, WV, between the two teams was very emotional. This Marshall team has had to relive this event this season because of the movie and will be playing with very heavy hearts. The Pirates must match that energy with some intensity of their own.

  2. Home Field AdvantageThe Pirates have gotten three of their five victories this year in Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium. If they want to have the opportunity to play for the conference championship, they must protect their home field. After winning two huge games on the road versus Southern Mississippi and Central Florida, the team will be happy to be home. The crowd should be close to capacity and the weather should be awesome. With only one more conference game on the schedule, a road contest next Saturday at Rice, East Carolina must win this one at home.

  3. Stop the Run: Behind the tough running of Ahmad Bradshaw, Marshall loves to move the football on the ground. Through 10 games, Bradshaw is averaging 125 yards per contest. The Pirates have been very strong this year versus the run, and when they have needed to stop it, they have.  Against West Virginia, the Pirates held two of the nation's top rushers under 100 yards. On the road at Central Florida, the ECU defense was dominant. It will take another outing like that to slow this tough Marshall attack. Quarterback Bernard Morris is also a threat to run, averaging 33 yards rushing per game.

  4. Protect the Football: Offensively, the Pirates, if they avoid turnovers, have the ability to score on the Thundering Herd. Marshall is giving up 28 points per game. If Brandon Fractious can get out early running the football, ECU should be in good shape. Marshall is giving up 150 yards per game on the ground and 243 through the air. The early rushing attack should make the passing game flourish behind the big arm of James Pinkney and the big play receivers of Aundrae Allison, Steven Rogers and Phillip Henry. Scoring early and often is what it will take to win this game.

The Bottom Line: This is a huge game for East Carolina, one that will be a challenge emotionally, mentally and physically. Since the Pirates entered Conference USA in 1997, they had not until now had the opportunity to control their own destiny this late in the season. A win over Marshall Saturday followed by a victory at Rice next week would lock up the Eastern Division and give the Pirates a berth in the C-USA Championship Game on Dec. 1. It goes without saying that this is the biggest game of the year.

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02/23/2007 10:32:33 AM


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