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Carolina has to go on the road for the third straight week when it faces
Tulane on Saturday in New Orleans. The Green Wave is 4-2 and will be
looking to measure itself against the best in Conference USA. ECU is
picked to finish first in the East Division and poses the toughest C-USA
threat the Green Wave has seen thus far. The
Pirates can beat Tulane if they perform well in these key aspects of the game:
What many observers might not realize is that playing on the road in a
hostile environment is actually easier than playing in front of a sparse
crowd. When I was a senior at ECU in 1999, we played at South Carolina in
front of 90,000 angry fans and played one of the best games we played all
year, winning by more than two touchdowns. That same year we went to
Birmingham to play UAB in a 90,000-seat stadium that had about 4,000 fans in
it and we lost. We knew that we were the better team, but we couldn’t get
ourselves pumped up enough to raise our intensity to where it needed to be
to win the ball game. On Saturday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome, there
won’t be more than 15,000 fans. The Pirates can’t use that as an excuse to
not bring their intensity level up. They have to motivate themselves and not
rely on the crowd to do it.
PROTECT THE FOOTBALL
Through six games, Green Wave defenders have picked off 11 passes and
recovered 7 fumbles. They are the best in the country in turnovers gained.
They have turned those 18 takeaways into 58 points. Their 11 interceptions
are first in Conference USA and second nationally behind Virginia Tech.
Cornerback Lorenzo Doss has 4 interceptions in six games and was named
National Defensive Back of the Week and National Defender of the Week by the
College Football Performance Award. Shane Carden will need to make smart
decisions in the passing game and the running backs and receivers will need
to protect the football once they possess it. Turning it over to the Green
Wave almost always results in points for them.
NEXT MAN UP
Pirates have lost three players to suspension over the last two weeks. They
have lost triple that to injuries, including two starting linebackers, a
starting corner and others. The mantra of this team is, 'Next man up.' When
somebody goes down, the player behind him has to step up — not only step up,
but play well. The last two weeks it was Chrishon Rose and Chris Hairston
who stepped up for fallen Pirates. They will have to continue that this week
and freshman receiver Isaiah Jones will be key as well. The health of a
program can be measured by the depth of that program. The Pirates are
proving to have depth in quantity and quality.
There probably won’t be 12,000
fans in New Orleans on Saturday, but that can’t matter to the Pirates. They
will have to go into the Superdome and play like their championship hopes
are on the line — because they are. Protecting the football will be the most
important priority. If East Carolina can do that, it will win this game.
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