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Keys to the Game
Saturday, October 13, 2007

By Kevin Monroe

Game 7: ECU at UTEP

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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East Carolina can defeat Texas-El Paso if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Slow the high-powered offense: Behind freshman quarterback Trevor Vittatoe, UTEP’s offense has been a pleasant surprise in 2007. The Miners' offense is 25th in the country in scoring offense averaging over 35 points per game. Vittatoe is a versatile quarterback that can beat you with his arm and his legs. In their come from behind victory over Tulsa last week, the freshman completed 21 of 27 passes for 319 yards. Vittatoe has started every game this year and the coaches have to be happy with his performance thus far — he has thrown for 10 touchdowns with only two interceptions through six games. The leading receiving threat will come from wideout Jeff Moturi, who caught 25 passes for 425 yards and seven touchdowns. All the success UTEP has had through the air still comes secondary to its stellar running game. Running back Marcus Thomas already has 11 touchdowns this year and last week versus Tulsa he rushed for 207 yards and three touchdowns. The Pirates will have their hands full trying to slow down this explosive offense.

  2. Pour in points by the bucket: The Pirates may have to put points on the board almost every possession if they want to compete. The 35 points per game that UTEP is scoring on offense is tops in the conference, but defensively they are giving up over 30 points per game. East Carolina needs to establish the running game early and allow that to open up the play action pass. This UTEP defense is giving up over 327 passing yards per game. The Pirates have been effective with their running backs and tight ends in the passing game, but need to get the receivers more involved. Steven Rogers and Jamar Bryant are still waiting on their breakout game of 2007. The running game, behind Chris Johnson, has been effective over the last two gamesm and things shouldn’t change this week.  UTEP is giving up 162 yards per game on the ground.

  3. Be special: The East Carolina kicking game has been suspect all year with the poor kicking of Ben Hartman and the inconsistent punting of Matt Dodge. Both kickers will need to come up big versus UTEP, which has some big-time athletes in the return game. ECU’s return game has been great over the last few games. Although not seeing much production on punt returns, Dewayne Has been fearless deep and is sure-handed. Chris Johnson is deadly on kickoff returns and had another touchdown return last week.

  4. Be tough on the road: Going into the Sun Bowl hasn’t been easy on anyone this year as UTEP has performed solidly at home. During his tenure, winning on the road under Skip Holtz has become somewhat routine for the Pirates, but they have only one road victory this year against Houston. If ECU wants to be a genuine contender for the Conference USA crown, it will need to be tough on the road.

The bottom line: The Pirates are facing another tough league opponent after already having battled Southern Miss, Houston and Central Florida. The plane ride down was a long one that ECu will have to put behind in order to focus on the task at hand. A win in El Paso will announce the Pirates as serious contenders for the conference title.

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10/13/2007 08:28:29 AM


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