ECU looks to regain swagger in C-USA opener|Pirates to take on UCF

Published 8:06 pm Saturday, September 26, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina opens up its Conference USA schedule today against the University of Central Florida and desperately needs a win.
The Pirates, whom many predicted to be a top-30 caliber team, have struggled in their last two games against opponents in that fall in that category, as they dropped games to West Virginia and No. 24 North Carolina.
When the defending Conference USA champions hit the field at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium today, ECU not only needs to win, but must do it convincingly. The Pirates have to go out and control this ball game, and in doing so, they can reestablish themselves as the team to beat in the C-USA East division.
In order to do that, quarterback Patrick Pinkney must get back on track. So far this season Pinkney (47-96, 3 INTs, 3 TDs) has only connected on 49 percent of his passes, which is unacceptable for a QB whose majority of throws are less then 15 yards. Teams will continue to load up the box and make the running game a nightmare for ECU until it can establish that it can connect on long passes. Today could be the day Pinkney breaks out of his slumber as he will go up against a relatively untested UCF secondary.
While the Knights’ secondary is a potential weak link, the rest of their defense is solid. Led by DT Torrell Troup, DE Bruce Miller and LB Lawrence Young, the Knights’ front seven will present a fierce obstacle to the Pirates’ offense. The attention paid to Troup up front has allowed Miller to earn two sacks this season, and fellow DE Jarvis Geathers to rack up four. As a team, UCF has six sacks, while the Pirates highy touted D-line has only three.
That front seven will have to be on top of its game, as the UCF secondary is a real concern for the Knights. Last season they the had one of the best units in C-USA as it was powered by CB Joe Burnett and S Sha’Reff Rashad. Burnett is now playing for the Steelers, while Rashad had a tryout with the Giants, but didn’t make it past August.
Like the Pirates, UCF relies on its defense to carry the team. The UCF offense is averaging 23 point per contest (ECU is posting 22 ppg), but with a new offensive coordinator Charlie Taaffe, and recently named starting QB Brett Hodges, UCF is hoping it can boast a more productive offense.
Hodges, a senior transfer from Wake Forest, rallied his from behind against the 2008 MAC champions Buffalo with a 16-point second half effort. Hodges is a nimble runner who could potential drive the ECU defense crazy.
East Carolina running back Dominique Lindsay will be out for today’s game as he is still recovering from a shoulder injury sustained during the West Virginia game. Running backs Brandon Jackson and Jonathan Williams will get the starting call.
In the secondary, sophomore corner Emmanuel Davis looked good in practice this week and is expected to get playing time today. Also, safety Levin Neal, who hurt is X in the opener against Appalachian State could make an appearance today. If not, either freshman Jack Schultz or Dekota Marshall will be in the starting lineup.