Keys to the Game
Friday, September 27, 2013

By Kevin Monroe

For the eighth straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate IMG Sports Network, provides ďKevinís Keys to The Game.Ē In 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).

ECU at North Carolina
Saturday, Sept. 28, 2013 ē 12:30 pm
Kenan Stadium (cap. 63,000)
TV: ACC Network

By Kevin Monroe
All rights reserved.

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East Carolina could very easily be 3-0 right now. Virginia Tech gave the Pirates more than enough chances to win that game two weeks ago, but ECU struggled to get points when the Hokies made miscues. The Pirates have turned the page on that loss and are squarely focused on the athletic and talented UNC-Chapel Hill football team they will collide with on Saturday. North Carolina sits at 1-2, but has played a top ten team in South Carolina and one of the nationís top rushing teams in Georgia Tech.

East Carolina can defeat the Tar Heels if it performs well in these key aspects of the game:


The Hokies were able to put a lot of pressure on Shane Carden. When the opponent has good defensive backs, your quarterbacks needs an extra second or two to give his receivers time to get open. Shane appeared to be rushed and flustered against Tech and never got into an offensive rhythm. The offensive line has played very well at times this season, but it will need to have its best game at Kenan Stadium. The Tar Heels play a high-activity, blitzing and stunting defense. North Carolina has 6 sacks through three games ó linebacker Norkeithus Otis has 3 of those sacks and linebacker Darius Lipford has 2. When Shane Carden has time in the pocket to throw, he is one of the very best passers in in college football.


On the flip side, East Carolina needs to put pressure on Tar Heel quarterback Bryn Renner. ECU has 10 sacks on the season, led by Lee Pegues with 3 and Terrell Stanley with 2. Renner, like Carden, is a very good passer when given time, but he does tend to get a little flustered when he is repeatedly pressured and hit. Georgia Tech didnít get much pressure on him in the first half and gave up 20 points. In the second half, the Yellow Jackets turned up the dial and shut the Tar Heels out.


The Pirate coaching staff wonít call this a must win, but I think itís a very important win. Ruffin McNeil has undertaken a program change at ECU that has put the Pirates on track to annually produce eight or more wins. In order to achieve that kind of standard, ECU must be competitive in its non-conference games. Let me amend that: Not only must the Pirates be competitive, they need to start winning some of those games. When the opportunity comes to play North Carolina, N.C. State and other in-state schools, the Pirates are playing for themselves, their fans and for the big one ó their recruits. This will be a game that all North Carolina/East Carolina recruits will be paying attention to. ECU needs to play with its hair on fire and leave everything on the field. This isnít ECU's Super Bowl, but a win would be super important to the program.


The Pirates know what to expect from a Larry Fedora-coached team. They faced him four times at Southern Miss and last year when he took the job in Chapel Hill. His spread formation offensive attack will be fast and furious ó or NASCAR-like as Coach Ruff describes it. Playing defense against this type of offense calls for three things from Pirate defenders: discipline, conditioning and toughness. Offensively, the Pirates will once again face a stout defense with speed, strength and agility akin to the one they faced against Virginia tech. ECU will need to be patient, efficient and effective with its play calling and execution to win this game.

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09/27/2013 05:44 AM