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Keys to the Game
Friday, October 9, 2009

By Kevin Monroe

Saturday, Oct. 10, 2009, 8 pm
Gerald J. Ford Stadium

For the fourth straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate ISP Sports Radio Network, provides “Kevin’s Keys to The Game,” his weekly breakdown of what East Carolina must do to beat its upcoming opponent. Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task as a member of the broadcast team and as a former star defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

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East Carolina can defeat Southern Methodist if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Pressure the QB

    The Mustangs have the second best passing offense in Conference USA and 11th best in the nation with 304 yards per game. Quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell has 108 completions and 8 touchdowns this season. It's going to take the ECU defense working together as a complete unit in order to slow down SMU’s passing attack. Stopping that attack will start with the big guys up front. For the secondary to have any chance of making plays in the back end, they will need Mitchell to be under pressure all game long. The defensive line and linebackers must hit him early and often to disrupt his ability to be effective in the passing game. The Mustangs have 101 rushing attempts to compliment 187 passes, which means they are passing the ball almost twice as much as they are running it.

  2. Compete in the Secondary

    It will be a tough day in the Pirate defensive backfield Saturday night because of the intensity of the SMU air attack. Through four games, the Mustangs are throwing approximately 46 passes per game, with 56 and 57 passes, respectively, in their last two outings. One of the main concerns of the secondary will come in the form of Mustangs star wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The senior is leading all active receivers in the nation with 29 touchdowns. The ironic thing about that statistic is that the Pirates faced the nation's leading rusher last week at Marshall. This game will be a polar opposite of the matchup with the Thundering Herd because SMU will be passing to set up the run. This is a game that corners and safeties live for. There will be several opportunities for them to make plays on the football and they must compete for every ball.

  3. Take Care of the Football

    The Mustangs lead the nation with 12 interceptions and have 17 total takeways. The same intensity that I am suggesting that the Pirate secondary play with on Saturday is what the SMU secondary brings to each game. Senior safety Dennis Rock is leading the way for the Mustangs with 3 interceptions, but eight of his defensive teammates have also made picks. Patrick Pinkney will have to be very smart with the football on Saturday night. Keeping the ball out of the hands of SMU will be priority number one.

The Bottom Line

If the Pirates want to keep their momentum going and remain in the lead in the East Division of Conference USA they will have to win their second straight road game. The Mustangs are beatable, but they are also very explosive. Keeping their offense off the field, controlling the clock and not turning the ball over is what it will take to win the game.

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10/09/2009 03:04:07 AM


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