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Keys to the Game
Friday, December 5, 2008

By Kevin Monroe

East Carolina at Tulsa
Conference USA Championship
Saturday, Dec. 6, 2008, 12 p.m.
H.A. Chapman Stadium, Tulsa, OK

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 Tulsa if it accomplishes these key objectives:

  1. Move the Chains

    The Pirates had a breakout game offensively against Texas-El Paso last week, racking up 53 points. They hadn’t scored more than 30 points all season and they suddenly exploded on the Miners. Tulsa has the leading offense in Conference USA and East Carolina needs to keep that high-powered offense on the sidelines. The only way to do that is to play keep away.

    If East Carolina can establish the running game early, it will open up the middle of the field for the passing game. Time of possession is not usually a big issue, but keeping Golden Hurricane quarterback David Johnson and running back Tarrion Adams off the field could be a major key to this game

  2. Rush the Passer

    Quarterback Johnson is one of nine on the Maxwell List for college football’s best player. He has completed 220 of 333 passes for 3,671 yards and 42 touchdowns this season. He is probably the most accurate passer the Pirates have seen all year, completing over 66% of his throws. The Pirates must put pressure on Johnson. Tulsa has given up 17 sacks on the season, which is a reasonable number considering the 355 total passing attempts by Golden Hurricane quarterbacks.

    Tulsa has shown some vulnerability upfront. None of its lineman have lettered more than two years. ECU defensive ends Zack Slate and C.J. Wilson need to have big games on Saturday. They will also need the help of the big guys in the middle, Linval Joseph and Jay Ross. The four of them have combined for 19 sacks on the season, led by Wilson's 9 sacks.

  3. Win on Third Down

    The Pirates have struggled offensively all season long, especially on third down. They are converting only 40% of the time but are holding opponents to 34% when ECU is on defense. Defensively, the Pirates need to be able to get off the field on third down. They will have their hands full trying to stop Johnson and his receiving corps, but the biggest threat may come from running back Adams. Adams has rushed for 1,200 yards and 9 touchdowns. Against Tulane, he ran for 323 yards on 33 carries.

The Bottom Line

The matchup will mark East Carolina's first ever appearance in the Conference USA championship game. Conversely, Tulsa will be appearing in the title game for the third time in four years. The ECU seniors took it upon themselves last week to put the team on their shoulders and fuel the big win over UTEP. Patrick Pinkney, Brandon Simmons and others played exceptionally well and the Pirates showed that they are capable of putting up big points. We know the defense will show up, but don’t expect this to be a 13-10 game. It’s going to take 30 points or more to beat Tulsa at home.

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12/05/2008 03:02:40 AM


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