Pirates' offense prepares for diverse Terps' attack|ECU only a day away from Military Bowl clash with Maryland

Published 3:28 pm Tuesday, December 28, 2010

By By BRIAN HAINES, Brian@wdnweb.com, Sports Writer
GREENVILLE — What you see is not always what you get. That’s been the case for Ruffin McNeill and the Pirates’ offense as opposing defenses have shown one style of play on film only to revamp their schemes come game day.
It seemed like Monday after Monday McNeill noted during his weekly press conferences that teams were playing a much different style then what they have displayed leading up to their game.
After seeing plenty of variation throughout the season, East Carolina offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley said he and his Pirates (6-6, Conference USA) will head into its Military Bowl showdown with Maryland (8-4, ACC) on Wednesday expecting to see a little bit of everything out of the Terrapins’ defense.
“They have played aggressive this year and have done a lot of different things to try and confuse people,” Riley said during the team’s recent bowl game press conference. “They are probably close to 50 (percent man defense) and 50 (percent zone defense). They are probably more man than most teams we have seen but with us you never know.
“We thought a lot of teams would try to come in here and blitz the heck out of us and then they would blitz us two times out of 80 plays, so we have apparently done something that has scared teams from blitzing us. But we will see, maybe they will, and we will be ready for it. I hope they do.”
A big factor in defenses deciding to back off of the blitz has been the way that Riley and quarterback Dominique Davis has handled it all season.
It seems like nothing phases the junior signal-caller who has put together one of the best season’s any ECU quarterback has ever had. Davis leads the nation in points produced (22.7), completions per game (29.8) and his 36 touchdown passes are tied for No. 1 in the country and are a Pirates’ record. Davis also led C-USA with 3,699 passing yards, while posting a conference-best 308 passing yards per game.
Despite the gaudy numbers, Davis was left off of the all-conference first and second teams, which is voted on by the Conference USA coaches.
Tulsa’s G.J. Kinne (258-429, 3,307 yards, 28 TDs, 10 INTs) was the first-team quarterback, while Southern Miss’ Austin Davis (259-410, 2,89818 TDs, 6 INTs) was named to the second-team. Davis and the Pirates beat both of Kinne and Davis in head-to-head matchups this season.
“It’s a joke … Maybe some people in the conference don’t like me or East Carolina” Riley joked. “I normally don’t get too caught up in things like that but with his stats … When it’s just that obvious and a kid gets ripped off like that … It’s just always political, it’s a complete joke and the coaches should be embarrassed about that one. I watched all those games too and I saw those other two quarterbacks – and they are great players, really good and coached very well – but we played them head-to-head and you saw what happened there. Just look at the numbers.”
Those numbers are why defenses would love to blitz Davis and get a few shots on him, but the speed in which Davis gets rid of the ball when he reads blitz combined with the play of a solid veteran offensive line in front of him, makes him nearly impossible to sack. On the season, ECU has let up 1.2 sacks per game, which is the 21st best total in all of the FBS.
The lack of pressure has made opposing coordinators have to decide between blitzing players or having them back in coverage. So far, teams have opted for coverage.
“We have got some weapons out there and when you blitz people you have to make a tackle. If we complete a pass somebody could go (for a touchdown). That has probably scared them a bit,” Riley said. “I’m not saying I wouldn’t blitz us. There are advantages, but you kind of have to weigh what you want to do and what you want to accomplish.”
The prevailing theory on how to stop offenses like the Pirates is to be patient and try to force the team to keep snapping the ball in hopes that it can not execute a lengthy drive.
“A lot of people have kind of taken to the bend but don’t give up a big play philosophy where you try to makes us have a 10- or 15-play drive to score. Some people have taken that approach but we just have to be ready for both. We got to prepare well because Maryland does so much.”
Maryland heads into the allowing only 22.3 points per game, which is ranked 38th in the nation, while its 353 yards of total offense allowed is the 46th best total.
Sophomore defensive tackle Joe Vellano leads Maryland with five sacks, senior All-ACC linebacker Alex Wujciak is tops on the Terps in tackles with 112.