TAKE ON PIRATE SPORTS
Tuesday, October 9, 2012
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This roller coaster of a season certainly took one on the downward side
this past Thursday night as East Carolina bolted out to an early 14-0
lead on the road, only to be outscored 40-6 the rest of the way in
a 40-20 loss to Central Florida.
The Pirates really never knew what hit them after a 99-yard kickoff
return from Quincy McDuffie cut the early lead in half. This team simply
“We just couldn’t do anything after that return,” said linebacker Jeremy
Grove. “We just never got the momentum back.”
The Pirate defense was especially disappointing Thursday night, as UCF
was never stopped after its first possession.
I asked ECU coach Ruffin McNeill if not answering the bell after a big
play like that was a maturity issue.
“(UCF Coach) George (O’Leary) told one of our coaches that he had seen
some of that this year,” said McNeill at his Monday press conference. [Replay
the audio from Monday's press conference...] “He said his
older guys weren’t fazed by falling behind early. We have to do a better
job of handling situations like that.”
We are at the halfway mark of the season, and the Pirates are three up
and three down. East Carolina has four of its next six games at home.
The tough part of the slate is certainly in the rear view mirror.
That’s what makes that 14-0 lead and what happened afterwards so
frustrating. East Carolina was in position, despite some of its
early-season struggles, to be on track for a Conference USA title.
Despite the loss, there is plenty of football still to be played. It is
possible that UCF will not be eligible for postseason. The Pirates have
to take care of their own business and then get a little help.
The disadvantage of the Thursday game is the short week. That turns into
an advantage for the next game, especially if you can win the Thursday
Regardless, the Pirates took the extra time to hit the recruiting trail
and to evaluate things at the midway point.
“Defensively, we need to continue our emphasis on stopping the run,”
said McNeill. “We also need to eliminate giving up long plays and making
sure that we can get off the field on third down.”
McNeill also gave his team passing marks on offense.
“Offensively we have had really good gains on first down," he said. "I
think we have been very balanced offensively this season. Our time
possession has also been strong. We have also been effective at
executing in the red zone.”
McNeill knows the key is to take advantage of those trips to the red
zone. The Pirates were hurt several times this season when they had to
settle for field goals.
One of the glaring problems from last week was on special teams. The
Pirates gave up the touchdown on the kickoff return. The return teams
also struggled all night long.
“On special teams we need to make sure our coverage teams are giving the
defense good field position,” explained McNeill. “We also need to make
sure our return teams are giving our offense great field position to
start from. Nobody has worked harder than our special teams coach, Kirk
Doll, to improve these areas.
need to correct our mistakes so we don’t make the same mistake twice and
learn from the errors we have made in the past.”
McNeill summed up his Monday briefing by emphasizing the importance of
his squad casting uncertainty aside and not wavering when tested.
“As a team we need to stop hesitating," he declared. "On Thursday
against Central Florida, we had some hesitation and it cost us some big
plays on both offense and defense.”
The schedule is softer. The Pirates play two–thirds of the rest of their
games at home.
As this team builds confidence, those hesitations will be a thing of the
past as Ruffin McNeill and company work towards a postseason bowl berth.
The second half of the year kicks off with Homecoming against the
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