ECU looks to turn twoPublished 7:01pm Monday, October 15, 2012
GREENVILLE — East Carolina is coming off of its most complete victory of the season with it’s 41-7 thrashing of Memphis on Saturday and now the big question is can it do it again against UAB (1-5, 0-2).
The Pirates (4-3, 3-2 Conference USA) looked strong on both sides of the ball as sophomore QB Shane Carden threw for 308 yards, five touchdowns, and most importantly, no interceptions en route to being named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.
Defensively, ECU shutdown the Tigers’ attack by holding them to 281 yards of total offense and not allowing them on the scoreboard until they surrendered a meaningless touchdown with nine minutes to go in the fourth quarter.
East Carolina jumped on Memphis early scoring touchdowns on its first two possessions and was able to ride that momentum to its most comfortable win of the season.
“I thought we improved on starting fast, which we’ve done the last two games,” ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said. “What we learned from the game before where we started fast was how to sustain it … It was good to see them sustain that energy and finish the game.”
The Pirates’ defense helped keep the momentum going by making sure Memphis never got any as it smothered the Tigers’ ground game by holding them to 115 yards on 43 attempts for a 2.7 yards per carry average. Memphis’ passing attack didn’t fare much better as it completed 16 passes for 166 yards.
“I thought the defense did an exceptional job and played with exceptional effort,” McNeill said. “When you watch the film they really ran well and flew around to the ball and made things happen.”
ECU will be back on the road this Saturday against a Blazers team that surrendered 23 unanswered points to start the second half of their 39-17 loss to Houston over the weekend.
LESS IS MORE
The East Carolina coaching staff has continued to adjust and tweak its playbook around sophomore QB Shane Carden’s strengths and so far the moves have paid off.
The simplified, restructured playbook has yielded positive results as Carden continues to improve each week. Carden, who made the fifth start of his career on Saturday, completed 25 of his 33 pass attempts and set career-highs in passing yards (308) and touchdown passes (5) during the team’s victory over Memphis.
“I think the simplification of the offense last week took a lot (of pressure) off him and (center) Taylor Hudson, the two guys who make the calls for us,” McNeill said. “I thought that helped a lot and I’m proud of the way Shane is progressing.”
Aside from adapting to the scaled down playbook, Carden is beginning to show the natural growth that is expected of a passer after having a few starts under his belt.
“The game is slowing down for him. He’s understanding coverages and the correct audibles,” McNeill said. “You’ll see him get quicker with that and be able to see the coverage and (and make reads) to get down to his third, fourth and fifth receivers. Right now he’s on one and two and he’s getting to three. Then, he’ll be able to go from one and two and be able to get to three and four as he gets more experience.”
BIG MAN MAKING BIG CONTRIBUTIONS
Justin Jones, ECU’s 6-8 junior TE/WR had a breakout game against Memphis over the weekend as he caught five passes for 80 yards and three touchdowns.
Previous to that, the Pirates had thrown the ball to 13 different receivers for a total of five passing TDs, with Justin Hardy accounting for four of those scores.
ECU has lacked consistent No. 2 receiver behind Hardy and if Jones can continue to be that guy the Pirates’ Air Raid offense can begin to take flight.
“I think it’s very important (to have a consistent No. 2 WR). … The focus of this offense is to not be able to double a guy … When Dwayne (Harris) was here it opened up Lance (Lewis), so I think it’s vital,” McNeill said. “Having another guy that can cause a threat helps open up other guys and Justin was able to do that and we have to have him continue to do that.”
Running back Reggie Bullock (concussion) has been upgraded from out to doubtful this week, while LB Montesse Overton, who suffered a knee injury versus Memphis will not play against UAB.