ECU back in action at TulanePublished 5:20pm Friday, November 16, 2012
The Pirates are hoping that just because they went through their bye week it doesn’t mean they have to say bye-bye to their momentum today when they take on Tulane at 3:30 p.m. in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
East Carolina (6-4, 5-1 C-USA) surged into the break with a 48-28 victory over Houston that reenergized the team after its deflating 56-28 loss to Navy.
Against Houston, the Pirates put forth one of their most complete games of the season as sophomore Shane Carden continued to show the growth that made backup QB Rio Johnson’s recent decision to leave the team a non-issue as he completed 31 of his 43 pass attempts for 305 yards, four touchdowns and one interception en route to being named the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.
The game marked a stage in growth for the first-year starter as he looked comfortable against an aggressive Houston defense that is second in the league in sacks.
“Shane’s getting better each week,” ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said. “He’s seeing the same look now again and again. (Teams) will change looks but he’s recognizing what’s happening with his pre-snap (reads).
“There are still some things that might get him while he’s learning but I thought against Houston he did a good job of getting rid of the football and getting us into the right play.”
Carden also did a good job of distributing the football as he connected with nine different receivers, which led to Danny Webster and Reese Wiggins both scoring touchdowns for the first time this season.
Also boosting the offense has been the continued development of junior running back Vintavious Cooper. The 5-9, 189-pounder ran 33 times for 140 yards and score against the Cougars to register his third straight 100-yard game and fourth of the season.
Thanks to Cooper’s 891 rushing yards this season, ECU has quietly become the nation’s 56th-best rushing team with 152.5 yards per contest. Not bad for an Air Raid offense.
The Pirates will face a young Tulane (2-8, 2-6 C-USA) team that features 11 players that are either freshman or sophomores on the defensive side of its two-deep.
Senior CB Ryan Travis is the leader of a Green Wave defense that ranks last in the league in yards allowed (481.3) and has yielded 39.3 points per game.
“They have some young guys in the secondary, but man they have some talent,” ECU offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “They have some athletic kids back there that have made a lot of plays and they have one of the top corners in the conference in Travis.”
Freshman free safety Darion Monroe leads the team with 76 tackles, while senior DE Austin Jacks has racked up a team-high 4.5 sacks.
On offense, Tulane is capable of scoring with the best of them when it’s not turning the ball over.
Senior QB Ryan Griffin set school records for passing yards in consecutive games when he torched UAB for 466 yards and five TDs before hurling 476 yards and four scores against Rice.
Griffin cooled off against Memphis as he threw for only 211 yards and was picked three times in a 37-23 defeat.
The key for the Tigers was to attack junior center Mike Henry and get to Griffin, and you can expect ECU’s big 6-1, 327-pound NT Terry Williams to want to do the same.
“Memphis got to him early with pressure and rattled (Griffin) a little bit,” ECU defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell said. “They were having him hold the ball by changing up their coverage.”
Expect the Pirates take the same approach.
When Griffin has time to throw, he will look to get the ball in the hands of 6-1, 190-pound junior Ryan Grant, who leads C-USA and ranks 16th nationally with 94.7 yards per game.
Grant has been red-hot lately and comes into today’s game having strung together four straight 100-yard games.
Though the Wave can sling it, running it has been a completely different story. While Tulane has quality backs in Orleans Darkwa and Robert Kelly, it ranks 119th in the nation with 42.3 rushing yards per contest.
The Pirates allowed a mere 28 rushing yards against Houston their last time out and if they can make Tulane one-dimensional like they did to the Cougars than Jeremy Grove and the ECU defense should have a good day.