Keys to the Game
Friday, November 8, 2013

By Kevin Monroe

For the eighth straight year, Kevin Monroe, color analyst for the Pirate IMG Sports Network, provides ďKevinís Keys to The Game.Ē In his weekly breakdown of what East Carolina must do to beat its upcoming opponent, Monroe brings a unique perspective to the task as a member of the broadcast team and as a former star defensive back for the Pirates (1995-99).

East Carolina vs. Tulsa
Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013 ē 3:45 pm
Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium (cap. 50,000)
TV: Fox Sports Net


Kevin's Keys to the Game


Turnovers plague Golden Hurricane


Home stand starts decisive stretch

Audio: Brian Bailey Show
The Brian Bailey Show airs on Pirate Radio 1250 on Mondays at 6:30 p.m. This week's guest was Marc Yellock: Replay show...
Audio: Coach Ruff Weekly Presser
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill discussed the Pirates' road win over FIU and previewed their home game with Tulsa: Select clip...
Audio: Steve Logan Show
The Steve Logan Show airs on FM 103.7 and FM 94.1 each Monday from 6-8 p.m. Replay this week's show: Select clip...

C-USA players of the week


A November to remember?


Game day photo gallery

Audio: Coach Ruff Post-game
ECU coach Ruffin McNeill met with the press after the Pirates' Conference USA road win over FIU: Select clip...

C-USA scoreboard & standings


Greg's Game Day Breakdown


This week in college football history


By Kevin Monroe
All rights reserved.

View the Mobile Alpha version of this page.

East Carolina's game on Saturday is a big one because itís the next trial in a stretch of challenges that stand between the Pirates and their season goals.

The foe is Conference USA West Division preseason favorite Tulsa, a team that has not met expectations but which would relish finally putting it all together to achieve some redemption at the expense of the East Division leader.

Though problems have plagued the Golden Hurricane this season, this is a talented team that is capable of beating the Pirates and complicating their path to the league championship game.

An East Carolina letdown in this game is not an option. If the Pirates execute the following assignments, they should prevail:


Special teams play will be a critical factor. There are three parts to the kicking game that have to be sharp against every opponent: kicking, covering and returns. East Carolina kicking specialist Warren Harvey has really struggled of late. He is 12-21 (57%) on the season on field goal attempts. In the last few games, Harvey has had difficulty converting field goals in crucial situations. He is hitting the ball well, but the kicks are not going through the uprights on a consistent bases. He will have to be better this week and the rest of the year if the Pirates want to play for the C-USA title.

The coverage teams will also be important this week. Tulsa return man Trey Watts is one of the nationís best. He is averaging 21.5 yards per kickoff return and 7.2 yards per punt return. ECU must corral him to avoid being hurt in the kickoff and punt coverage phases of the game.

From the opposite perspective, the return game for the Pirates has been solid with Lance Ray on kickoffs and Justin Hardy on punts. The duo will need to have good games on Saturday.


Turnovers in all games are important, but that stat is even more magnified in a conference game. Tulsa has thrown 10 interceptions and lost 12 fumbles through eight games. Those giveaways have been a huge reason why the Golden Hurricane has won only two games. The Pirates need to keep that trend going and come up with 3 or more turnovers.

Defensively, Tulsa has picked off 9 passes and recovered 3 fumbles. East Carolina must focus on protecting the football, and quarterback Shane Carden will need to make good decisions throughout the game.


This is always one of my favorite keys. It seems simple, but itís so important. East Carolina found out last week against Florida International that getting dominated in time of possession and plays run is no fun. Luckily, the ECU defense stepped up when it needed to and kept FIU out of the end zone.

Saturday, the Pirates need to get back to what they do best, which is getting first downs, eating up clock and moving the ball up and down the field. Their third down conversion rate is over 50% for the season and they have been averaging over 90 plays per game over the last four outings. If ECU puts its foot on the accelerator on Saturday, Tulsa will not be able to keep pace.


Coach Ruffin McNeill loves to talk about four phases of the game ó offense, defense, special teams and sideline support. This is a game that could sneak up on the Pirates if they are not sharp in all four phases. If the enthusiasm level is high and the Pirates take care of the ball, play well on special teams and keep the chains moving, the result can be a decisive victory.

Send an e-mail message to Kevin Monroe.

Dig into Kevin Monroe's archives.

11/08/2013 03:15 AM