TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
November 23, 2010
No where to go
but up for ECU defense
All rights reserved.
The NCAA stats made it
official this week.
East Carolina has the nation’s worst defense.
OK, it has been a struggle all year. Now, the defense has hit rock
That’s probably not earth-shattering news for most Pirate fans.
A Rice team with just two wins on the season shredded the Pirate defense
to the tune of
a 62-point afternoon.
It was embarrassing, especially for those on the field.
“We’re just not very smart,” said
defensive lineman Josh Smith. “You look at the film and
we just aren’t where we are supposed to be. It certainly isn’t coaching.
We are prepared, but it just takes one person to be in the wrong spot
and that’s what you get.”
First-year coach Ruffin McNeill continues to try and keep the faith. The
stress of his team’s problems on defense is vividly apparent with his
expressions. You can read it on his face.
Someway, somehow, though, the
Pirates have to at least slow down Southern Methodist this week and give their own
offense a chance.
Defense was the first topic of conversation at
Coach McNeill’s weekly
press conference on Monday.
Is it talent? Is it coaching? The only consistency in the Pirate defense
is that teams are rolling up huge numbers against the guys in purple.
“We’re lining up in the right spots, we just have to be physical and
talented enough to get off blocks and make plays,” explained Coach
McNeill. “There is no magical defense. You can have some plays where you
have a guy come free, but a lot of times it boils down to beating the
guy in front of you and getting off the block.”
McNeill refuses to use injuries as an excuse. The fact is that
East Carolina was going to struggle on defense even if the squad had stayed
healthy. Add in the injuries and you get a recipe for disaster.
“Losing Justin Dixon, Michael Brooks and Marke Powell is tough,” said
McNeill. “I’m not going to lie. Those are our three best defensive
linemen. Josh Smith, who is one of the best, is playing his tail off
right now. I can’t hide it — we lost three of our best defensive players.
We can’t replace them. Those injuries hurt.”
Now the challenge is to somehow stop the bleeding long enough to pull
out a victory in the regular season finale.
Rice was just 2-8 with little to play for and the Owls looked like an
NFL offense against East Carolina.
SMU comes to town on Friday battling for the West Division crown in
Conference USA. The Mustangs certainly have plenty to play for and will provide quite
a challenge for a defense that is reeling at best.
“We have to get their confidence back first of all,” said McNeill when I
asked him how he could get this thing turned around in a short week. “It
starts with that. I only know one way and that’s to keep working.
There’s no substitute for that. We’re not going to be able to invent
anything between now and Friday. We have to make sure we get their
confidence back first.”
Getting that confidence back is much easier said than done.
“It just seems like one guy is out of position on each play and we
shouldn’t be,” explained Josh Smith. “It’s assignment defense. We know
our assignments. We just aren’t executing.”
Coach McNeill certainly would have liked to have had the likes of
former Pirates and current NFL players Linval Joseph and C.J. Wilson in his defense. Smith agrees.
“Those guys were so good and had so much experience that they could make
up for some of the mistakes that were made,” Smith said. “They were
good enough to overcome some of the problems. Right now we don’t have
anyone like that.”
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, Coach McNeill says he has lots to be
“I’m thankful for being here first of all,” McNeil explained. “I’m
thankful for this football team, being back in Greenville and having the
chance to come back. I’m thankful for the group of coaches I work with.
They are great people and coaches who work hard. They don’t ask for
anything, they just work. I like that about them.”
Pirate fans should be thankful that despite the nation’s worst defense,
this Pirate squad should go bowling in December.
Sometimes in life you have to hit rock bottom before things get better.
The Pirate defense has come through a couple of times this year. This is
a group that needs to right itself in a short week to give the Pirate
offense a chance.
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