Pirates look to build on Rice blowout|ECU kicks off tonight at 8 p.m.

Published 1:27 am Tuesday, October 27, 2009

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — East Carolina’s 49-13 win over Rice was a nice change of pace for Pirates’s fans. There was no sitting on the edge of the seat with five minutes left in the fourth quarter hoping that ECU’s defense can snuff out another last-minute rally attempt. No wondering aloud “if they could have only made that one play/field goal/not thrown an interception earlier in the game it wouldn’t even be close right now.”
While the network execs over at ESPN2 might not desire it much, ECU fans desperately want the Pirates put their foot down on a weaker opponent for the second consecutive week. East Carolina (4-3, 3-1) and Memphis (2-5, 1-3) will kickoff at tonight at 8 p.m., which means the game will end near midnight. The Purple-and-Gold faithful would love to see their squad turn off the lights early on the Tigers, so they can turn off their lights at home and get some sleep before 11:45 p.m.
Will it happen, who knows?
Conference USA East-leading East Carolina has played seven games this season, and its blowout over Rice was the only game that even remotely appeared to be over by halftime. In other words, make sure you got a Redbull or two in the fridge.
Memphis is off to another slow start but this is the time of year it usually heats up. For the last four season’s the Tigers have began the season 1-3, but have a knack finishing out the year strong. Last season Memphis fought off its sluggish start to land a spot in the magicJack St. Petersburg Bowl.
While its nice to see a team gut-out a season, the act seems to be wearing thin for Tigers’ fans who are clamoring for the ouster of ninth-year coach Tommy West. With West’s seat resembling a fire pit, each game bears extraordinary pressure for he and the Tigers, so expect them to come out swinging tonight and every game they play for the rest of the year.
The Tiger’s off-field issues are not the Pirates’ problem, but their receiver are. Memphis boasts two of Conference USA’s most dangerous wideouts, and their match up with ECU’s inconsistent secondary will be key to the outcome of tonight’s game.
The Tigers are led by two big senior receivers in 6-4, 205-pound Duke Calhoun and 6-9, 230-pound Carlos Singleton. Calhoun is seventh in Conference USA in receptions with 40 and third in receiving yards per game with 95. Calhoun also leads the conference with 666 receiving yards.
Earlier this season Calhoun recorded three straight 100-yard receiving games. He is the only player to do that in Tiger history, and he has done it twice in his career. The receiver is Memphis’ all-time leader in receptions with 187, as he passed players such as Isaac Bruce and Earnest Gray.
Singleton’s 145 career receptions ranks third on the all-time list, which is incredible considering the duo never really played with a consistent quarterback.
Singleton and Calhoun are battling it out for the team’s all-time leader in TD catches, and this race will go down to the wire. Singleton and his 21 TDs are No. 1 right now, but Calhoun is right behind him with 19.
The Pirates will look to keep them from adding to that total tonight, but that will be a tall order for a secondary that has been known to let up long touchdowns passes.
Corners Emanuel Davis (5-11) and Travis Simmons (5-10) will certainly need help over the top from safeties Levin Neal and Van Eskridge.
East Carolina coach Skip Holtz said that the key to containing the Tigers’ wideouts is to mix coverage. Expect to see a lot of two-deep zones from the Pirates and just hope that the defense can make the tackle after the catch.
Helping the Pirates’ secondary is the fact that the Tigers have had quarterback issues all season.
Memphis headed into the year with Arkelon Hall as the starter, but benched him in favor of mobile quarterback Tyler Bass. However, Bass injured his non-throwing shoulder and had season-ending surgery last Tuesday, leaving sixth-year senior Will Hudgens as the starter.
Hudgens made his sixth start of his career last week in the team’s 36-16 loss to Southern Miss, but won his start the week before that as the Tigers topped UTEP 35-20.
On the season Hudgens has hit on 54 of his 96 pass attempts for 638 yards, five TDs and four interceptions.
The Pirates should be able to get pressure on Hudgens, as he is protected by a suspect offensive line. ECU’s front four, C.J. Wilson, Jay Ross, Linval Joseph and Scotty Robinson should definitely have the advantage over a Memphis O-line that boasts only one senior in RG Dominik Riley (6-5, 310).
East Carolina’s offense will look to build on its 49-point outburst over the lowly Rice Owls last Saturday. That performance was the first time all season the Pirates have topped the 30-point mark, and only the second time all year quarterback Patrick Pinkney eclipsed the 200-yard. Pinkney threw for 231 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.
Dwayne Harris continues to be the ECU offense’s saving grace. Last week Harris caught nine passes for 128 yards and two touchdowns, while also brining back a kickoff 92 yards for a score.
Harris can’t do it all by himself though, the Pirates desperately need running back Dominique Lindsay to play.
Lindsay hurt his ankle during the Rice blowout. The senior had 78 yards on 12 carries and was the team’s top rusher for the game despite leaving in the second quarter.
With each game that goes by, it’s more and more apparent how much Lindsay means to this team, and how far ahead of the other backs he is.
Despite missing time due to a shoulder injury, which he continues to fight every week, he is ECU leading rusher with 431 yards in only five games. Lindsay is averaging 5.6 yards per carry, and the next closest back is Brandon Jackson who has rushed for 264 yards in six games.