New Orleans Bowl Presents BIG Opportunity for Pirates

OK…so we have all be subjected to the ESPN assault on our program (we are not alone, they are running down any Big East teams they can) and see that the nation believes – in droves – that Louisiana Lafayatte is going to walk the dog on us in front of what will undoubtedly be a home field advantage at the Super Dome tomorrow.

Should the Ragin’ Cajuns be the favorite in this game? Abosolutely. Should ECU fans understand that our 8-4 really does not look as good as other 8-4 teams? Without a doubt. Can this team – our Pirates – win this game? Yes, and the program needs it now more than ever.

Look, we have been on an extended slump. The two Liberty Bowl losses under Skip and the loss in D.C. two years ago have us squarely on a post-season losing streak and frankly, having not beat a team with a winning record and having our four losses be so pronounced to – frankly – mediocre teams (save USC), it is easy to see why no one thinks we can win.

BUT…we have been here before. Last time, it was everyone’s favorite Boise State Broncos who were supposed to win without a fight and we all remember how that one turned out. Suffice to say, we lead the all-time series with the king of the have nots, not them. But, we desperately need a win to legitimize this season. If we lose to the Ragin’ Cajuns, then our 8-5 might as well be 5-8. If we beat them, well then hello daddy…we are a win away from 10 wins, bringing back an overwhelming number of starters into – most likely – the new league in 2013 (expecting all teams to move quickly).

We must, must, must – did I mention that it is really important that we – win. This program needs it and to get that win, will provide more momentum within the program than you would expect. It will fuel a recruiting bump up and sets us up for a short climb next year (as we would be able to garner some pre-season recognition heading into the 2013 season).

Can we, though? Can we beat this virtual doppelganger in Louisiana Lafayette?

The short answer is yes, but it will take a mammoth undertaken and here is why. Our defense. Our offense no doubt has found its sea legs, offering the ability to drive the field with a defense on its heels guessing what we will run next or the ability to strike quick over the top to  the likes of Reese Wiggns and Jabril Solomon, in the intermediate zones to big man Justin Hardy or YAC master Justin Hardy (who should be an AA candidate this year if not next), or strike in the air or ground with the COOOOOOOP. But our defense. Oh, our lovable, talented (for reals not toungue and cheek) but all too often inept defense. Look, I am of the opinion that we have some serious talent on our defense. But, we have some serious gaps and, I hate to say it, but we have X and O problems at times back there. Like trying to have our safeties cover pitch men against Navy or having our corners not play tight, not play loose, not play – seemingly – any scheme known to the college football world. Our linebackers can shut down pretty much any running team in America, but also, 12 games in, cannot seem to find ANYONE in their zones during pass coverage.

Back to the match-up. Which defense has the best chance of getting more stops? ON paper…not ours. And, as good as our offense has been down the stretch, it is not able to be 100% perfect and our defense has shown that it can go virtually and entire game without a stop.

So, the pundits – ESPN’s agenda driven drivel aside – are probably correct in picking the Ragin’ Cajuns. That said, hope runs eternal in Pirate Land, so I am thinking that our defensive coaches sense that there jobs are in the balance and our players can execute a game plan…perhaps this is the game it comes together.

I have said in the past that we all will know whether or not we are in the game on the very first offensive and defensive drive of each half. Our team tips its hat instantly and in this game, we desperately need a fast start in this game to have a chance. Not because LL is that good, but because our defense is that unreliable and plays much better when the pressure is on the O. With confidence and a lead, our D has shown a way to hold on or get a stop. But, if the D has to dictate the game, we are in trouble.

There are some bowl week signs that our players are jacked up and looking to prove something. That there is a chip building. Good…because we need that attitude.

A win…and 2013 looks like a boon. A loss, we may need to reevaluate our program.

For the Seniors…here’s to a great finish to your careers.

Go Pirates, Go!

Love to hear thoughts on this matchup, the importance of this game, and the program’s direction.

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14 Comments

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14 responses to “New Orleans Bowl Presents BIG Opportunity for Pirates

  1. Blackbeard's Ghost

    Good to see ya writing again RC…
    I so agree that we have the offense to keep us in the game or even win it, like the Marshall game. But I am also sooooo tired of watching our obviously talented Defense look lost all the time, most notably in the secondary. I don’t think the guys that are playing back there just take it upon themselves to run what ever each chooses on every play so I have to look at the defensive play calling. So all signs point to the defensive coaches. Before this game even starts though, I will give props to the ULL team. Very good opponent and one that I would compare to a UCF type team.
    As always, I will be routing for my Pirates tomorrow. I just can’t stop wondering if our defense will let us down.
    Have a Great Christmas Ron and we’ll chat again soon sir!

    • Thanks for stopping in BBG…always eager to read your opinions on topics.

      I will be glued to the tube for this game…very excited. I think the UCF comparison is interesting and will be watching tomorrow with that in mind.

      Have a great and safe holiday…

      Go Pirates, Go!

  2. Ralph Wright

    I just want to see our defense grow up in the secondary soooo bad. I definitely do not want to see another basketball score. I can’t believe the lights still haven’t come on for these guys.
    Maybe this will be the game.

  3. Normally I dont think too much about the bowls unless there is a potentail ranking involved or the game is against one of the so called big boys. This however is a very important contest for the reasons you stated. Can you imagine as great and consistent as USM has been to go 0-12 when the expansion winds are blowing has to really hurt. Our record might be a little overstated but it is what it is and we have the potential to hold a trophy and win 9 games. With these long layoffs you dont know who is planning on showing up. Is our defense bad? as a unit perhaps but I do think there is talent there the key will be generating some turnovers and hope for some drive killing penalities. On offense I expect to see some gadget plays. I have been waiting for Cooper to throw it so we shall see. A win today is huge in building momentum into recruiting, spring drills, and next season where you would see some mentions in the preseason top 25.

  4. Ed Keller

    Sorry to say but Mitchell has to go. We can’t continue to give up 500 – 600 yards a game and expect to have a chance. The only wonder is that we actually had multiple chances to win even though we gave up so much on defense. Imagine how effective we could be if we gave up 100 less yards per game? Frustrating.

    • Hi Ed…the game unfolded about how I expected…which in itself is an indictment of our defense. And, I agree, it seems more an X and O issue than a personnel issue.

      Seemingly, we took a step forward last year against better competition, but on this schedule, we should have not lost on scheme…the NAVY game exposed the X and O issue acutely – IMO – and since then, I feel like if joe fan like myself can so easily see it, the coach must see it clearly. What to do? Ruff has built this staff and team on a loyalty model…what do you do when you have asked your young assistants to stick with the program and then need to make a call such as this?

      Sigh…I am having Logan year flashbacks when Dave Hart (reportedly) had to step in and “force” the hire of Larry Coyer back long ago. Coyer, then of course, came in with the same players in one season and took the worst defense in the country to Top 40 play.

      I miss defense at ECU. Our offense is good, but not perfect and it shouldn’t be that when the offense is not 100% rolling that we are guaranteed a loss. But that seems to be the case. Yes, the O let the team down yesterday, but the defense is simply woeful, not forcing mistakes but basically waiting, hoping and praying that the other team do so.

      As always sir…great to hear from you.

      Have a stellar holiday!

      Go Pirates, Go!

  5. ultraviolet

    The irony is that the defense played well enough in the second half to win, but they were also responsible for the huge deficit that had to be overcome. As you point out, the offense should not be forced to be perfect for us to have a chance to win. I bet there won’t be any defensive staff changes in the offseason and Ruff will count on being fully stocked with veterans next year to overcome their coaching. If he wins next year and goes bowling we may still have a bad defense. I would not be satisfied with 8 wins over scrubs and a bowl loss again were I the AD. With TH on a retirement path he won’t be making a new football hire. A new AD will be doing that should it become necessary. The good news is that we appear headed to the best league affiliation we can hope for anyway so time is not ticking away that might be needed to affect our future in that regard.

    • Thanks for the comments UV…love to hear them.

      Agree that we are in the best possible situation affiliation wise – with or without Boise. Also agree that Ruff won’t make a change. And, finally, I agree that 8 wins doesn’t cut it.

      Hopefully things will shake out in the best interest of the program.

      Have a wonderful holiday!

      Go Pirates!

      • rc

        have not read the other comments to see if anyone has mentioned we did not beat a team with a winning record this year. most of the teams had lousy records. did we beat any teams last year with a winning record? when TH made this hire, i thought it was a bad decision then, now it looks worse, in that pirate nation is expecting less from this staff than any in the past. i would love to see a rotation of coaches as long as we produce stong teams. why would anyone want a coach that does not put a team on the field that everyone would be proud of. who cares if the coach does not retire here? with this coach we have no future of being a strong football program

      • HI rc…I hear what you’re saying.

        I think that there are some very important decisions to be made this off-season, starting with coaching staff. These decisions will reveal what our HC is all about. I do not expect Ruff to be anywhere near a hot seat any time soon, though.

        Have a great holiday.

  6. No Quarter

    What aggravates me the most is that we are going in an entirely different direction than what it takes to win games and championships. Defense and a committment to the running game wins those for you. Yes, we had a 1000 yard rusher in Coop, but did you ever get the feeling we were ever committed to winning by running the football? Defensively, we have talent on the field. Our front 7 is very capable and have played well this year. Our problem is our DBs are asked to cover way to long. We hardly ever, that I can remember get pressure on the QB consistently. We hardly ever bring pressure from linebackers or corners. It is almost like we are playing D not to lose rather than to win. There is a reason why the Alabamas and LSUs and Notre Dames of the world win championships, yes they have top recruits, but there is a major committment to Defense. Whether that is recruiting better defensive talent or getting better coaches, something different needs to be done. That’s what I want to see from ECU!!!!

    • Thanks for dropping in NQ…couldn’t agree more. I think – as you point out – that our front 7 has talent. And, what really fires me up about it is that there have been games when BM fired up the blitz in games (see UCF, UNC games particularly) it was HIGHLY effective. However, he dialed it up so infrequently, that it seems to me there are two things happening here: 1) the defensive schematic is not good; 2) our backend guys are not good enough to allow us to blitz a lot. If it is solely the latter, than someone needs to rethink recruiting. This year 3, we should have the players to play the position schematically.

      Cheers, happy holidays and a blessed New Year!

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