Keys to the
By Kevin Monroe
ECU vs. Virginia Tech
Saturday, August 30, 2008 (Noon)
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte
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).
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Carolina can defeat Virginia Tech if it accomplishes these key objectives:
Control the Line of Scrimmage
Most of us
go to the games to see the big play. We enjoy the quarterback that can
throw it 80 yards like David Garrard; the wide receiver that can go up
in a crowd and make the big catch like Troy Smith; or the running back
that can take a toss sweep down the sidelines and go untouched to the
endzone like Chris Johnson.
Truth be told, those aspects of the game are not where football games
are won and lost. Games are decided at the line of scrimmage. East
Carolina has a young offensive line, but seven of the eight on the
two-deep depth chart saw playing time last season. Senior Stanley Bryant
is the most experienced of the bunch and he will have to lead this crew
and help ensure that a sense composure is maintained on such a big
stage. The defensive side of the line is where the Pirates should excel
this season. Even with the loss of Brandon Setzer, ECU has upperclassmen
at every position and should prove to be a tough opponent for the lesser
experienced Virginia Tech offensive line.
East Carolina has a ton of talent at all the offensive skill positions.
Quarterback Patrick Pinkney is a senior with a big arm and quick feet.
He proved last year that he can win games and will need an errorless
effort on Saturday. At running back, the Pirates lost senior Dominique
Lindsay to injury but they still have a very formidable group in Brandon
Simmons, Jonathan Williams, and J.R. Rogers. Expect to see all three on
Saturday. Simmons is a powerful runner and blocker, Rogers has good
speed and quickness, and Williams is multifaceted.
I feel really good about the quarterback and running back positions, but
I feel great about the Pirates at receiver. Jamar Bryant, Dwayne Harris
and T.J. Lee have the potential to be a superb trio this season. Each of
them catches the ball well and can stretch the field. Virginia Tech
always has good defensive backs and this year is no different. Macho
Harris and Kam Chancellor are two of the best in the ACC. The Pirates
will have to run the football to open up the passing game and will have
to execute both phases well to win this game.
Win the Turnover Battle
It goes without saying that if the Pirates don’t protect the football,
they have no chance to win. A reasonable expectation is for the offense
to have no more than two turnovers and for the defense to get at least
three takeaways. Virginia Tech is known for its ball hawking style on
special teams and on defense. Protecting the football is of the utmost
North Carolina State game from
last season is a great example of why you can’t have kicks blocked and
interceptions thrown and expect to win.
Expect to Win
There was a time when the Pirates were known as Giant Killers, when big
name programs had major anxiety before playing East Carolina because
they knew the challenge they faced was genuine. In the 'nineties, the
Pirates beat Miami twice, West Virginia, Pitt, Syracuse, South Carolina
and Virginia Tech. The reason ECU was able to accomplish these victories
is because its players saw themselves as equals and expected to win
every time they stepped on the field.
Virginia Tech game was a moral
victory. ECU played well on the road versus one of the nation’s top
football schools. There will be no moral victories on Saturday; a loss
will be a disappoint. The Pirates have to expect to win every game this
season. Coach Holtz has re-instilled that attitude into the program and
it has to show in the effort of the players.
IT'S TIME… East Carolina needs to put itself back on the national scene in a
big way. Beating the No. 17 team in the land heading into game two against
West Virginia will instantly put the spotlight on the Pirates. The Hokies
are starting a new running back, two freshman receivers and an unproven
quarterback. Their talent is on defense. This probably won’t be a high
scoring game, but it is one the Pirates can win if they control the line of
scrimmage, establish the run, and take care of the ball.
Football is as much mental as it is physical, so expecting to win and
playing with confidence is as important as having tremendous athletic
ability. The only way to get into a BCS conference is to beat BCS schools
when given the opportunity.
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08/29/2008 03:05:37 AM