Run at the C-USA Title begins…Can Our Pirates Rise?

Big game needed by D: In 2011, turnovers plagued both teams and UTEP got its first win against ECU…ever out in El Paso. Magz and the boys need to turn it up on D for the Pirates to get the win.

In looking at the rest of the schedule, there are four games I am most worried about: UCF, Marshall, UAB, and this weekend’s clash with UTEP.

With the win over USM two weeks ago, the Pirates have bagged the biggest win on the C-USA slate. We all know that the CUSA East title AlWAYS goes through Southern Miss and to get that win was HUGE for this team.

To be honest, I would have told you at the beginning of the season that we would likely be 1-3 after the first four games in 2012, so notwithstanding the UGLY stuff we have seen thus far, we are STILL in a very good position to have a very good season as far as W-L record goes.

First, for everyone who is saying “dumb down the schedule,” what is left ahead of ECU fits the bill by default. [ BTW, I don’t necessarily disagree with my friend Denny but that will have to be a future blog].

Looking at what we have ahead, a 10 win season is definitely there for the taking. Let’s face it, C-USA is bad this year and Navy is too. ECU – bad as we are playing right now – is good enough to win this league.

Second, we play 5 of the remaining 8 at home…which is a good thing for our team who always plays better at home.

Third, the level of competition is about to take a dip and our depth and conditioning will really start to show, IMO.

UNFORTUNATELY, 8 wins is more likely given:

One, history is not on our side. We tend to lose a game that has everyone scratching there head and murmuring “WTF” afterwards. To me, I am guessing it will be the UAB game. They are not a bad team and have played the big boys pretty tough this season AND playing in Alabama has never been kind to ECU. Watch out for that one.

Two, we play UCF – the other fav in the EAST – on the road.

Three, our league loves to pass the ball – which is not our forte defensively.

Which brings us to UTEP.

The Miners are going to be trouble for us. Thank God, we have them at home where they have had to travel cross-country to play. They may be 1-3, but look at there freakin’ schedule. Road games at Ole Miss and Wisconsin and a home gig with Oklahoma…really? Talk about taking on the big boys…wow! Kudos to UTEP.

I know…Wisconsin isΒ  a shell of itself in 2011, but still…they could probably give UNC a game and our hostile environment won’t have anything on the Baders. My point is that UTEP will not be intimidated and we need an A+ effort to stay ahead in CUSA.

There are a few items that are worrisome for us. One, UTEP throws the football well. We pass defend horribly…horribly. They will look to carve us up and if things do not change quickly, they will. AND, they can also run the football if needed. They hung 222 yards of rushing on Oklahoma. Ouch.

And, their O doesn’t turnover the ball – i believe they have a fumble lost and an INT through 4 games. Pretty good at protecting the ball.

So, they are good at hitting on two of our biggest weaknesses: 1) we can’t seem to stop the pass; 2) we NEVER have a plan B and so after we prepare for the pass and then they start pounding at us, will we be able to switch gears? Not sure.

Now…the good news. If ever our team was to break out offensively, this is the game. In its four games, UTEP has given up 400+ yards per game, yielding 500+ to Ole Miss. If Carden is to break out…this will be his week and for him, he needs the reps and the confidence and he will get better each snap. Our WRs better bring it.

That we have instituted a running game is a good sign. We need to use it for sure this week so we can have longer, sustained drives to eat the clock. We need to keep their O off the field.

I think the loss at UNC helps us. For whatever reason, our boys get overconfident at times against CUSA despite lack of evidence that we dominate the conference. I think a miserable game at UNC will play into our emotional edge for this game. We have a lot to prove on the field.

Get a win this weekend, and we could really start something big. Lose this weekend and I fear a third place finish in CUSA East at best.

I prefer the former!

Well that is how I see it friends…what say you good Pirates?

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33 Comments

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33 responses to “Run at the C-USA Title begins…Can Our Pirates Rise?

  1. Chris

    Ron… Agreed.. big game this weekend. I want to see how we play on an even playing field with regards to recruiting.. UTEP has played well against the big boys, but read yesterday they lost arguably their best defensive player for the year… So Carden needs to light it up and our running game needs to get established… I think the key for our pass defense is QB pressure… bring the house BM! don’t let their QB just sit in the pocket and pick us apart… make him beat us while running for his life! Our run defense has been mostly stellar.. My plan would be to keep everything in front of me on defense and RUN the football! Could be a breakout game for Cooper… would love to see him with a few open field opportunities…

    Thanks for the continued outstanding analysis… like you, I didn’t agree with O’Brien’s assessment of our scheduling philosophy. I think you are with me that games like those against USC and the Holes only toughen us and if we can survive without key injuries, make us better against our conference foes… cupcakes lead to complacency and conference losses imo.

    • Thanks for jumping into the conversation first Chris…I agree on the equal talent equation and would give us the edge in regards to being home, playing an Eastern schedule, and the Camp Connors effect as being the difference maker for our team in regards to depth, talent.

      Yeah, I tend to be in the middle on the schedule issue. I think we should schedule a stretch game (regionally ranked opponent ala USC, Va Tech,etc.) and two (2) absolutely should not lose to these guys opponents so we have a shot at 2-2 every year worst case.

      Looking ahead to this game Saturday Chris as it will set the tone for the rest of the season and determine the “who” this team really is Offensively and Defensively.

      Cheers!

      • Chris

        Sat through the rain to take this one in.. Carden had some picks, but I see a maturing QB. Defense continues to play well… I have tix to Orlando game and want to go badly as I think this is bascially the East division championship game, but it is proving too difficult logistically to make it… BIG GAME THURSDAY!!!!

      • Thanks for weathering the storm for the team Chris…they rewarded you and us all with a great effort.
        Wish I could be in Orlando this Thursday…and it should be for the East (barring us pulling one of our typical inexplicable losses to a Memphis or UAB type.

        Go Pirates, Go!

  2. Blackbeard's Ghost

    You made mention in the UNC article that when we get pressure on the opposing QB, good things happen to our defense. I think we have to go after Lamison(sp?) to disrupt UTEP’s very capable passing game. They have a veteran QB who, given too much time, will make the throws. Since our secondary seems to be struggling, we will just have to chance it by bringing pressure with a LB on almost every down. We just can’t afford to give UTEP’S QB time to find his guys wide open.

    Although UTEP is a decent team, they are not USC or UNC in terms of dominant talent. They don’t have “plug-n-play” depth as I like to call it. We should be able to wear them down in the latter stages of the game. And with a solid running game emerging, that just might be what the doctor ordered.
    As for our USM game, great confidence win but not much else. So far this year, USM is a mere shell of what they have been for so long.

    In an interview with Stephen from HTC/247, Coach Riley stressed that he believes this offense is “very close to getting over the hump”.
    Do you think, or possibly expect, ECU’s offense will show us something against a generous defensive unit in UTEP at DFS this Saturday? (I’m putting you on the spot here Ron!) πŸ™‚

    • Always love it when you drop by BBG…

      Here goes…taking on the last question first. I really think Carden can be a very good QB for this program. Man, he has the fire. IF, Riley loosens up the reigns a little, keeps the running game moving, and corrects in Carden a flaw that I mentioned in the other post, I think that this offense could – and may have to, explode this weekend. I think the O is going to put up – and here is the big prediction – between 35 and 42 points this weekend.

      Now, to your other point. I cannot agree more about the UNC/USC versus UTEP points you posted. They are not even close in that regard. BUT, they do have a good QB and will carve us up if we do not get pressure on them, making this a track meet and shifting the pressure to our offense which is not what we want. While I think we will score a good number of points, we MUST get defensive stops.

      Hence, your thoughts are along the same as mine. Send the house at the QB and force him to throw quickly to beat us. That should allow us to exploit defensive team speed in pass coverage.

      But BBG…our guys HAVE to become more reliable in open field tackling. It is painful to watch so far and you would expect with 9 starters back, we could make those plays.

      Gaffs will decide this game and hopefully we are the ones on top of it.

      That’s my take.

      Go Pirates, Go!

      • Ralph Wright

        I just don’t see us losing this game. While we did have a talent gap exposed in the trenches in the two BCS games, no such gap exists the rest of the way. This team has not shown the tendancy to panic that I saw in last years team. I think that was actually a major cause of our turnovers.
        This bunch of pirates seems less emotional and much more workman like. I really like the way they go about their business. I am predicting we will see much fewer mistakes and a lot better execution in our conference campaign this year.
        Could just be these purple shades but I’m excited for the rest of the season.

      • You know, there is a lot to be said about the talent differential between the BCS teams we have faced and what we face the rest of the way and I agree on that premise.

        I have a pair of those purple shades too, and would love to break them out the rest of the way, my friend!!

        Thanks for your commentary…no panic here yet, either.

        In the words of the awesome Pirate grad Vince McMahon…”Go Pirates, Go! Lay the Smackdown on UTEP!

  3. I think all of the games on the schedule are winable with the exception of the UCF game where I think we will get beat by a couple of scores. In addition I do think we will drop another along the way. I have read the dumbing down of the schedule posts as well, and I for one am totally against them. I would rather see us get drilled by the elites than play programs like Wofford, Furman, and others we tried to leave behind 30 plus seasons ago. Since I can see just about every game on TV or the computer why would I pack my bags, fill my car with 5 dollar gas, find a hotel, drive 300 miles to see an epic battle against Willima and Mary. Now if an AQ team is coming to town count me in. Since the best we can ever hope for is a 750K to 1 million bowl game what difference does it make if we finish 10-2 playing a bunch of doormats or go 6-6 playing a legit schedule. Look at Boise who went 12-1 back to back seasons and ended up in the Vegas Bowl with a pathetic million dollar payday. Attendence and recruiting should be the dominant factor when it comes to our schedule.

    • I hear you…DCP28. I have a slightly different bent as you have read on the scheduling. A middle ground of sorts where we always play two big name teams.

      I think as a young team, we are bound a lot by our emotions and confidence level. I think if we win this weekend, we have a shot at UCF. I am not convinced that they are that much better than us. But then again, even if we get the road win there, history tells us we will drop a game somewhere.

      Love your breakdown of incentives to go see a W&M game. No arguments there at all DC. Makes too much sense. The ride, effort, and expense should be worth the even you are going to…totally agree.

      Recruiting is tough for ECU, but there are some special coaches out there…just have to find them to bring in the ringers.

      Go Pirates, Go!

    • I hear you…DCP28. I have a slightly different bent as you have read on the scheduling. A middle ground of sorts where we always play two big name teams.

      I think as a young team, we are bound a lot by our emotions and confidence level. I think if we win this weekend, we have a shot at UCF. I am not convinced that they are that much better than us. But then again, even if we get the road win there, history tells us we will drop a game somewhere.

      Love your breakdown of incentives to go see a W&M game. No arguments there at all DC. Makes too much sense. The ride, effort, and expense should be worth the even you are going to…totally agree.

      Recruiting is tough for ECU, but there are some special coaches out there…just have to find them to bring in the ringers.

      Go Pirates, Go!

  4. UTEP has never won a game in the eastern time zone: 0-17-1

    Though the Miners are much improved, I don’t think it’ll happen this week either. I believe ECU will be hungry to bounce back after three road games in a row…and talking to Lincoln Riley last night, he feels the offense is right on the edge of busting out. They’re just a block or two, or a catch away from springing some big plays.

    I think we’ll see a more complete performance this weekend, though it’ll be a close contest.

    31-24 ECU

    • I like that we are home Stephen…boys need that. I am more worried about a track meet of a game. I love that we are running the ball some to slow things down for our D. I think that we can win this one and maybe even by a couple of scores, but man…it is never easy.

      This is a game where Carden can really break out!

      Love all your work over at 247 Stephen…keep it up.

      BTW…I should have answer on your question tomorrow…sorry so long…business travel is kickin my butt.

      Also, did you hear from the guy about non-AQ poll help? Let me know.

      Cheers!

  5. rc

    Pharma….i cannot believe the number of fans that want a weaker schedule…what we really need is better coaching…i don’t see U L Monroe making excuses about the difference in the number rating of players or the strength of the schedule…they just play to win and believe they can beat anybody…watchout, i think UTEP has that same mentality…ECU used to have that, but look what poor coaching can bring out…if this were school it would be called dumbing down…let’s not fall into that defeatest trap…does anybody remember when Randle said this is not comparing oranges to oranges…he ended up with a field of oranges in Wahoo country..i have always said ECU is a coaches dream because of the hunger to win…when you compromise you have just become a loser..what say you Pharma?

    • You said a lot there rc…is the Pirate chip dying on the vine? I don’t know, but I, too, am worried.

      At this point, I think it would take a rare coach – say a Jimmy Johnson type – to come in here and work some magic.

      Recruiting is so tough for us, but you are right, there are some masters at it out there. We need to starting considering that, IMO.

      If we do not right the ship fast, I believe the rumbles will become louder.

      I am in the group that is also saying, watch out for UTEP’s offense.

      Thanks for dropping in rc.

      Go Pirates, Go!

  6. ToTheHilt

    I believe part of what we are seeing regarding the staff is that Ruffin imported not only staff members from Texas Tech, he also imported what might be called the philosphy of the Texas Tech staff. And one aspect of that is, IMO, that the staff was built based primarily on recruiting ability. I think that Leach believed his biggest problem at Texas Tech was the difficulty of recruiting the athletes to compete with Texas, Oklahoma, etc., and that if he could get the players, then his offensive system would allow them to be successful. Overall, I think he was correct. His staff might be a little light on the x and o phase of coaching, but they were all good recruiters, and he had enough confidence in his own ability as an offensive coach and play caller that he could win with that system. It has always been somewhat of a curiosity to me that a coach who had been in the business as many years as Ruffin had would have to rely on as many coaches from one staff as he did when he was first hired. Outside of coach Wiley, whom he had knows for years, the other coaches were mostly young and from Texas Tech. It may be that as the staff gains experience this system might work at ECU, and we just have to be patient and let that happen. The staff does seem to be good recruiters. I would like to see the team look like they are growing and getting better; it is important that the fans see the staff growing along with the team.

    • That is a good point TTH…one that definitely deserves consideration by all who cherish the Pirates program. I guess it then moves the discussion to one of patience, vis-a-vis, how much should we have and what are the realistic measurables by which we should judge that progression? I am all for giving one of our own more time than less, but at what point and by which criteria do you say…ummm, we are stagnant or even worse, regressing? Regression is not something than can turn positive once you recognize it…you have to wait for the rebound, which could really be 2-4 seasons later.

      I think we will see this year (in how the team finishes) and next year how good the recruiting is. Would love to see this staff mature into a long-term, great staff.

      Of course, if we fall apart down the stretch here, not sure how much patience I have.

      As always, thanks for dropping a note TTH…

      Go Pirates, Go!

  7. ToTheHilt

    RC, I am right there with you regarding this – I am willing to give Ruff more time than someone who is not an alumnus. And I agree that the remainder of this season and next year will go a long ways towards determining that. Also, related to my first comment, since Ruff is considered to be here for the long-haul, I think we need an extra measure of patience. In other words, I’m willing to wait a little more time for him and his staff to grow into the job because I don’t think he will bailout at the first opportunity. I think this is part of the tradeoff when we hired him – we knew he wasn’t an experienced head coach, but because all indications are he is willing to stay here long-term, we are going to let him have more time to show he can get the job done. And I certainly hope he does prove that to be the case.

  8. rc

    you don’t hire and fire coaches based on someones reasoning…the yardage stick is wins and losses period!

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

    • Fair point for sure rc…having seen what lies ahead of us in the schedule, I think if the bar was not already at 8 wins and a bowl game, it should be there at least. With the remaining schedule, 9 wins should be the bar, IMO, to stave off rumbles getting louder.

  9. Ed Keller

    I think the secondaries are the real key to this game (theirs and ours). If we can find some way to limit them in the air, I don’t think they’ll beat us on the ground. One thing that has me worried is that USM posed absolutely no threat in the air. This is why we were able to contain their rushing attack. If UTEP gets it going in the passing game, we could be in for a disappointment.

    • Welcome as always Ed…

      I think you were right and fortunately, we got pressure and they never got off the ground (air wise).

      I like the matchup with UCF as they are pretty balanced, though it means our secondary must hold its own.

      Cheers!

  10. Chris

    I wish we had a couple more games under our belt before we faced them, but it is what it is… we could have lost some key people to injury before playing them if it was later, so there’s always pluses and minuses… that being said, the Pirates have OWNED UCF over the years just as Southern Miss has owned us… I believe the head to head record is 9-2, with one of those losses occurring in the John Thompson era so it doesn’t count… πŸ™‚ In fact I think one of Thompsons few wins in his two seasons was against UCF, but don’t quote me on that one… ECU finds a way to win these games against UCF (or in some cases UCF finds a way to lose)… I remember sitting the whole night in that tuna can in Orlando a couple years ago with a face longer than Mr. Ed’s for most of the game… TV coverage even had a close-up of me that night, which later spurred light-hearted suggestions from my friends that I may need therapy or at least anti-depression medication. But late in the game the Pirates made a charge, tying it late in the 4th, then winning it in overtime… I only got like 10 total minutes of enjoyable game time that night but it was worth it… hope I feel the same way Thursday night!

    • Chris

      just looked it up.. UCF’s other win was against Skip in his first year.. Can’t blame that one on Thompson, but Skip was playing with Thompson’s recruits, soooooo… Thompson didn’t face UCF so no wins or losses against them…

    • That is a funny story Chris…

      I know if I was caught on film at many ECU games…i would probably look like I need therapy as well.

      Cheers!

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