Pirates look to avoid 'Miller Time'|Team focused on stopping Knights’ star DE

Published 1:36 am Thursday, October 28, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — This Saturday East Carolina will take on Central Florida in a Conference USA heavy weight showdown that will propel the winner into the East Division front runners.
Both teams will enter Bright House Networks Stadium with a perfect C-USA record as the Pirates are 5-2 (4-0) and the Knights stand at 5-2 (3-0), however, only one will leave unblemished.
The war within the war this week will be fought in the trenches as the Pirates offensive line will battle one of the best defensive lines the team may see all year. Whoever wins the battle up front is likely to leave with a zero firmly intact in the C-USA loss column.
The Knights’ D-line is anchored by preseason all-American defensive end Bruce Miller. Standing at 6-2, 255 pounds, the senior DE has tallied 30 sacks in his career, the most of any active player in the FBS. Miller is also two sacks away from breaking the school’s all-time sack record held by Darrell Rudd.
Miller’s play is a big reason why UCF stands as one of the best defensive teams in the conference. The Knights are No. 1 in total defense, allowing a mere 259.7 yards per game, which is also seventh in the nation. UCF’s 101.4 rushing yards allowed per game is second in C-USA (14th in the nation), while its 158.8 passing yards allowed per contest is tops in the conference and ninth in all of the FBS.
Come Saturday, the primary responsibility for keeping Miller out of the face of quarterback Dominique Davis will fall on senior left tackle Willie Smith and freshman right tackle Grant Harner.
“He is the leads (active players) in sacks and there is a reason for that,” Smith said. “He gets at you. He plays hard till the whistle blows, so that’s what I’m looking for. It also a chance to show everybody how good I am too.”
Indeed, the Pirates offensive line which consists of senior LT Smith (6-6, 290), senior LG Cory Dowless (6-5, 309), sophomore C Daulton Fields (6-3, 287), senior RT D.J. Scott (6-6, 323) and redshirt freshman RT Harner (6-6, 323) has been extremely solid this season and has yielded a mere 1.4 sacks per game which is the 38th best average in the country.
Smith, Dowless and Scott have earned numerous conference honors and have been through several wars during their Pirates’ career, however, Harner and Fields have only 12 career starts between the both of them.
Miller enters the matchup having racked up three sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 11 quarterback hurries, one interception and 33 tackles. The scary part is that Miller is not the team’s leader in sacks. That honor belongs to his junior protégé Darius Nall, who at 6-3, 255 pounds has tallied a C-USA third best six sacks, 7.5 tackles for a loss and nine hurries.
“(Their defensive line) has a lot of experience, especially with their two ends,” East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said. “They are a little bit inexperienced inside, but the two ends are good players. … They play really hard. They do a nice job on their pass rush techniques. You can tell they are very technically sound. Both those guys got a chance – in my opinion – to go to the next level.”
Playing at left tackle, Smith is expected to be the primary blocker on Miller, while Nall, who is listed as a reserve on the Knights two-deep, is expected to match up a lot with Harner. However, UCF coach George O’Leary likes to move around his linemen and will try to exploit the Pirates’ weakest link.
“They move them around and try to get them in different spots so you can’t settle in on them or set you protection to them on one side,” Riley said. “They will get both players in there, and not just on third downs, they rotate in a bunch of people and try to keep those guys fresh.”
Keeping those players fresh allows them to be tenacious on the field when they get in.
“The things that impress me about their D-line is their effort level, they never quit,” Harner said. “They run to the ball on every play. They do a lot of shifting and stunts on the front and back ends of plays so we are going to have to be very sound in our technique.”
Smith said what makes Miller so tough to guard is that he is a speed rusher who has potential to power rush once and a while.
“He is more of a speed and space guy. He’s not going to bull rush you too much because he doesn’t have that much size,” Smith said. “But at the same time he can do it because he can get off the all so quick.”
Riley said the key for the offensive line this week is to do the same thing it has been doing all year.
“Well I think you can’t go out there and try and do something different,” Riley said. “A lot of times when guys see a good pass rusher or a guy who has been built up in the media they might try and go out there and do something different. They might alter their technique, or as we call it, try to be Superman. But you just have to do what you do in the practice field. This technique works, I promise it works, it works everywhere, I have seen it work against great D-lineman everywhere we have been.”