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Kevin's Keys to the Game
Saturday, November 18, 2006

By Kevin Monroe

Game 11: ECU at Rice

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 Rice if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. End the Streak: Jarrett Dillard is one of the 14 semifinalists for the 2006 Biletnikoff award that goes to the nation’s top wide receiver. Against Tulsa, he had 8 catches for 137 yards and 3 touchdowns. That performance extended his touchdown streak to 12 games going back to last season, tying him with Randy Moss and Desmond Howard and leaving him only six games behind Larry Fitzgerald, who has the all time record at 18 games. In that game, Dillard also set the Conference USA single season record with his 16th touchdown catch this season. Dillard is only a sophomore and is relatively small in stature (5-11, 180) to be causing so much destruction to opposing defenses. In order to end the streak, East Carolina will need to show him the type of attention that Aundrae Allison sees each game. I would expect to see a safety and maybe even a linebacker shaded to his side at all times. Keeping Dillard out of the end zone will be key to slowing this Owl passing attack.

  2. Contain the QB: Even when Dillard is taken care of, there is a very capable player at quarterback that can make plays with his feet and his arm. Chase Clement has only played in seven games this season because of an early season injury, but in those games he has averaged 217 yards passing and over 280 yards of total offense. Since returning from injury, Clement is averaging more than 300 yards of total offense and has accounted for 21 touchdowns in six games. Dillard is the major threat, but Clement has thrown touch down passes to five other receivers. Containing Clement’s run-pass ability will be the Pirates' only chance of shutting down this high-powered offense.

  3. Score Early and Often: Although Rice is on a four-game winning streak, its shortcoming has been its defense. Over the last four weeks, the Owls have given up an average of 33 points per game, which is in line with their season average of allowing close to 35 points per game. Rice is allowing an average of 190 rushing yards and 250 passing yards. James Pinkney and the ECU offense have the opportunity to get back on track and have a big day versus this Rice defense. With the three-headed monster (Brandon Fractious, Dominique Lindsey, Chris Johnson) back in tact, the rushing game should be as good as or better than it’s been all year. The passing game has been great at times and not so good on other occasions, but the Pirates will need to put it all together in order to outscore the Owls.

  4. Play together: Offense, defense and special teams will be important in Saturday’s game. East Carolina will need a total team effort to win this game. The defense struggled against Navy and Tulsa but has otherwise been dominating this year. The offense has only scored under 21 points twice, against UAB and Tulsa. There is no coincidence that the Pirates lost all the games mentioned above.

The Bottom Line: Saturday’s game is the biggest league game the Pirates have played since joining Conference USA. A win over Rice will put them in the C-USA championship game. Since 1997, ECU hasn’t finished higher than 2nd place in the conference, but it now has the opportunity to win out and get that championship. To do that, the Pirates first have to go 1-0.

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02/23/2007 10:32:34 AM


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