No break for the Pirates|ECU practices hard during bye week

Published 6:00 pm Thursday, September 23, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Sports Writer
Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — After a summer’s worth of workouts and three weeks of games, East Carolina heads into its bye week with an encouraging 2-1 (2-0) record.
Following the Pirates 49-27 road loss to Virginia Tech on Saturday, the Pirates have used their bye week not to focus on their upcoming opponent North Carolina, but instead turned the spotlight on themselves.
“This week has been about fundamentals and learning to trust your technique when things get tough,” offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “When something goes wrong you don’t want them doing too much. They just have to go back to trusting their technique and play hard.”
On the defensive side of the ball, fundamentals have been the theme of the week as well.
“You go back to ground zero, you start from the bottom up,” defensive coordinator Brian Mitchell said. “You work every fundamental and sense of urgency. You work all the technical things, and when it’s time to go against a unit you got to have great passion.”
Every program handles its bye week different, some take it easy while others crank up the intensity. Like everything else ECU does, the Pirates have chosen to go full speed ahead at practice.
“It’s all about us getting better,” Mitchell said. “Most teams say ‘let’s get healthy, let’s rest them up.’ No. We don’t have time to do that. We got to grind it out and keep chopping wood and get these guys to the point where we are playing consistent defense.”
Riley agreed.
“We’ve blasted them these last two days,” Riley said. “They might have been the two toughest practices we have had all season. We’ll pull off a little bit before next week and get them fresh and ready to go for North Carolina.”
So far this season both units have had their ups and downs. The Pirates’ defense has allowed 41 points per game and over 900 passing yards throughout the first three contests. However, it has also registered nearly three sacks per game. Keep in mind that the defensive numbers for a team like the Pirates can be skewed because ECU does not run a ball control offense.
“Right now we need to continue to work fundamentals and toughness,” Mitchell said. “We just need to be an overall tougher defense. We’re not tough enough to go out there and go toe-to-toe with teams of (Virginia Tech’s) caliber. … We’re making some plays. We got 21-plus plays for losses, we got quarterback sacks, we’ve caused turnovers. We are doing some great things, it’s just in key situations we’re not getting off the field.”
Offensively, the Pirate have posted some big numbers, but so have their opponents. ECU is scoring 42.3 points per game and has accrued 1,324 yards of total offense. Pirates’ opponents have tallied 1,440 yards of total offense. East Carolina has converted on only 18 of its 44 third down plays (41 percent), while its competition has converted on 21 of its 37 (57 percent) third down plays.
“When we are good, we’re good. When we are playing well and focused we are a good offense,” Riley said. “We’ve move the ball well against all three of the teams, but we have had times where we did not move the ball well.”
As prolific as the offense has been, there is plenty of room for improvement. Riley said the process of getting better starts with the basics.
“It’s kind of a position by position thing, but our running backs have to get better at pass protection,” Riley said. “They did a great job against Virginia Tech identifying who they need to block, but it’s just the technique of it. So this week we drilled the hell out of it. Quarterbacks have to get better at trusting their reads. Receivers need to work on their blocking and understanding the routs we want against certain coverages, and up front we need to work on our pad level in the run game. It’s just fundamental, easy things that can easily be fixed and if we fix them we got a chance.”