Pirates prepare for shootout with Wolfpack|ECU battles NCSU at noon

Published 11:18 pm Saturday, October 16, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
The big games keep up coming for the Pirates. One week after winning its most important game of the year to date, a 44-43 thriller over Conference USA rival Southern Miss on the road, East Carolina returns to home after being the visitor for three straight contest to play another tremendous game as it faces in-state rival N.C. State
Fans of offensive football should love this one as these two teams have been racking up the points all year long and if they get hot today they might just blowout ECU’s new scoreboard.
East Carolina (3-2, 3-0) is averaging a Conference USA second-best 37.6 points per game, while N.C. State is tops in the ACC with 37.5 points per game.
Both teams have exciting quarterbacks, game-breaking wide receivers and speedy running backs, all of which are capable of scoring on any given snap.
Pirates quarterback Dominique Davis is coming off of his second 300-yard passing game this season and leads C-USA with 288 passing yards per game. Davis has hit on 136 of his 216 passing attempts (63 percent), but has also tossed nine interceptions in only five games. If the Pirates want to end this year with a win over an ACC opponent Davis must be more careful with the football.
Davis’s counter part Russell Wilson has been downright awesome this year and has begun to get his named mentioned in the Heisman race.
Wilson made his Wolfpack debut 2008 against the Pirates as he and running back Andre Brown led NCSU to a 30-24 overtime victory over then No. 15 East Carolina at Carter-Finley Stadium.
A tremendous athlete, Wilson has been drafted by the Colorado Rockies as a second baseman while also leading his team to a 5-1 (2-1) record.
Though he may be only 5-11, his lack height at the quarterback position has not stopped him from coming up big for the Wolfpack. On the season Wilson is averaging an ACC-best 300 yards per game, connecting on 144 of his 242 attempts (59 percent) for 1,802 yards for a whopping 17 Tds and only six picks.
Wilson’s speed makes him dangerous if a play breaks down, but Pirates coach Ruffin McNeill said the NCSU quarterback is much more of a pocket passer.
“He’s a dual-threat quarterback who reminds you of Tyrod Taylor with his running ability. But, when he throws the football, he has zip, accuracy and field vision to distribute the football to all five receivers,” McNeill said. “ None of the receivers are at the top of the ACC rankings because Wilson distributes the ball. When he scrambles, he’s scrambling to throw the football. They also have designed running plays for him. He is really calm in the offense and has great pocket presence, command and the ability to escape. We’ll have to do a great job with him.”
Wilson has several targets to throw to as Owen Spencer, Jarvis Williams and T.J. Graham each have NFL potential. Spencer leads the Pack with 28 catches for 426 yards, while Williams is second with 22 receptions for 377 yards.
East Carolina strikes with a solid receiving corps as well. Senior wide receiver Dwayne Harris rewrites the record book every time he makes a catch as he is the programs all-time leader in receptions (207) and receiving yards (2,335). Harris’ 40 receptions on the year is the sixth-best total in the nation. Fellow wideout Lance Lewis has also had a strong season and is second on the team with 23 catches and 313 yards, while being tied with Harris and running back Jonathan Williams with a team-high five touchdowns.
Williams done a nice job this season running the football as his 331 rushing yards is fourth in conference.
The NCSU rushing attack was a concern in the preseason, but converted cornerback Dean Haynes (4.1 ypc, 254) and freshman Mustafa Green (5.0 ypc, 344) have stepped up for the Wolfpack.
While ECU can score points in a hurry, it can also give up points just as quick. The young Pirates’ defense ranks in the lower percentile nationally in just about every defensive category this season. The team has let up 42 points per game this year which is 117th in the nation out of 120 FBS teams. East Carolina stands at 114 in total defense (457.6 yards allowed), 99th against the run (192 yards per game) and 110 against the pass (265.6 yards per game).
ECU’s defense will be playing shorthanded today as free safety Derek Blacknall will miss today’s game after being suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit on a Southern Miss player last week.
Freshman Damon Magazu will get the start in his place and is expected to be backed up by Justin Venable and Devon Wallace. McNeill also stated that if need be he would slide CB Emanuel Davis over to safety.
Another tweak to the Pirates two-deep is the insertion of freshman WLB Kyle Tudor in the backup spot behind ECU’s leading tackler Dustin Lineback (41 tackles). At 6-3, 215 pounds, Tudor is a big freshman had played well in ECU’s spring scrimmages. Tudor supplants fellow freshman Ty Holmes.
The East Carolina defense must step up today if it wants to knock off its rival and make some big stops throughout the game, or it will put even more pressure on the Pirates’ offense to try and keep pace with Wilson and his crew.
Despite starting three sophomores and one freshman in the secondary, NCSU has done a good job on defense and has yielded an ACC fifth-best 21.2 points per game. Sophomore safety Brandon Bishop leads the young secondary and team in picks with three.
Likely future NFL draft pick Nate Irving is the heart and soul of the Wolfpack defense that is fourth in the ACC against the run (153 ypg) and third in the conference against the pass (177 ypg).
Defensive coordinator Mike Archer runs an aggressive 4-3, zone-blitzing defense that has racked up 20 sacks this season which is the second most in the ACC.
If the Pirates can exploit Archer’s defense for a few big plays then ECU might be able to top the Wolfpack for the first time since Nov. 25, 2006 when they won 21-16 at Carter-Finley Stadium.