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PRE-GAME ANALYSIS
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Keys to the Game
Saturday, October 6, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 6: UCF at ECU

Each week, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate ISP Sports Radio 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 a member of the broadcast team, but also as a former defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

©2007 Bonesville.net
All Rights Reserved.

East Carolina can defeat Central Florida if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Three yards and a cloud of dust: It’s no secret that Central Florida is going to run the football — the Golden Knights have to run the football. UCF is first in Conference USA and seventh in the country in rushing offense at 252 yards per game. The Knights have 17 offensive touchdowns this season and 15 of them are rushing touchdowns. They have rushed for 300 yards or more in the last two games (300 vs. Louisiana-Lafayette and 313 against Memphis). Running back Kevin Smith took his first carry of the season 80 yards for a touchdown versus N.C. State. He finished the game with 217 yards rushing and two TD’s. In game two against Texas, Smith only had 36 yards at halftime, but he ended the game with 149 yards and two touchdowns. Texas only allowed one 100 yard rusher all of last season. As a junior, Smith ranks eighth on the active player career rushing rankings. If the Pirates are going to be successful, they have to corral Smith and gang tackle him. Every time he touches the football he should have 11 helmets on him. East Carolina should force Smith to truly live out the mantra 'Three three yards and a cloud of dust.' The Pirates need to hold Smith to under four yards per carry.

  2. Keep the motor running: The Pirates had their best rushing day of the year last week against Houston, running for 173 yards and three touchdowns. Chris Johnson, who has been the offensive star for ECU thus far, had 147 yards rushing and two touchdowns on his own. It was his first 100-yard rushing game this year. No other player has more than 50 yards rushing in any game. The Pirates would prefer to pass the football, but they must establish the run to make sure Central Florida respects the running game. Johnson is a threat to break a big run every time he touches the football and the Pirate offensive line gave him plenty of room last week. Central Florida may have something to say about ECU running the ball as the Knights are first in the conference in total defense and third in the conference in rushing defense.

  3. Win the turnover battle: East Carolina has to protect the football. Turning the football over versus UCF could prove fatal. Through five games, the Pirates are plus 8 in turnover margin, having given up the ball four times (3 interceptions and 1 fumble), and taken the ball away 12 times (7 fumble recoveries and 5 interceptions). UCF runs the ball so much that it increases its probability for turnovers. The more times quarterback Kyle Israel has to hand the ball off the better ECU’s chances will be to cause a fumble.

  4. Time of possession: Usually time of possession isn’t a major key for the Pirates. This game is different. Kevin Smith carried the ball 33 times versus Louisiana-Lafayette last week. The Pirates need to keep the ball and keep UCF’s offense off the field. A balanced offensive attack of running and passing efficiently will prove to be very important to get first downs and keep UCF’s number one scoring defense on the field and their number one scoring offense on the bench.

The bottom line: The Pirates caught a break with Southern Miss suffering a conference loss to Rice. UCF (1-0) is in sole possession of first place in Conference USA’s East Division, but ECU (1-1) can move past the Golden Knights into the driver's seat with a win. The Pirates need to play well defensively against the run and force Israel to throw the ball to beat them. Offensively, ECU must move the chains by running the ball and winning time of possession.

Send an e-mail message to Kevin Monroe.

Dig into Kevin Monroe's Bonesville archives.

10/06/2007 01:57:45 AM
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