Pirates line up against No. 22 Temple

Published 4:31 pm Wednesday, October 21, 2015

GREENVILLE — It was a short week of preparation for the East Carolina football team, having just four days between Saturday’s homecoming win over Tulsa and tomorrow’s matchup with No. 22 Temple (6-0, 3-0 American Athletic Conference).

ECU head coach Ruffin McNeill said he and his staff emphasized the importance of good repetitions in practice, rather than the number of repetitions leading up to the game.

“Making sure your guys are fresh, but at the same time, it’s about quality, not quantity, which is our thought process,” McNeill said during his Monday press conference. “I’m big on having clear minds. Cloudy minds have slow legs and clear minds have fast legs.”

For ECU, Temple is playing off a short week as well following a 30-16 victory over winless Central Florida. Junior running back Jahad Thomas had a heavy workload in the win, as he carried the ball 31 times for 199 yards and three touchdowns.

This season, Thomas has 557 yards (111.4 per game) and seven touchdowns for the Owls. McNeill said preparation for Temple’s strong offensive line is just as important as preparing for one of the AAC’s top backs.

“(Thomas is) a tough runner and very physical,” McNeill said. “Up front, they’re huge. They do a lot of formations so we’ll have to do a lot of adjusting with our defense, like making sure we’re aligned.”

Temple’s running game is complemented by strong quarterback play in P.J. Walker. Walker has completed 62 percent of his passes this year and thrown for seven touchdown passes and just two interceptions.

The Owls spread out the passing attack with 17 players recording a reception this season. The team’s leading receiver, Robby Anderson, has just 19 catches on the year with four touchdown receptions.

“P.J. (Walker) was coming along last year when he was just learning the position. He’s doing a good job distributing the ball. He’s very mobile,” McNeill said. “He’s got two receivers 6’3 and 6’3-plus. Robby Anderson is one of them and Ventell Bryant. Those guys go up and attack the ball well.”

Bryant is the second leading receiver with 13 receptions for 127 yards.

For the ECU defense, defending the pass will be key, something the Pirates did well with last week. Senior cornerback Josh Hawkins earned AAC Defensive Player-of-the-Week last week.

The Pirate linebacking core have been sub-par against the run this season, allowing 186 yards per game on the ground this season and 15 rushing touchdowns.

McNeill expects the Pirate offense to mirror Saturday’s success against the Owls and has not named a clear-cut starter or who will take the majority of the snaps. Though, it could be expected that whoever comes off the bench — Blake Kemp or James Summers — will likely finish the game under center.

Last season, the Owls knocked the then-No. 21-ranked Pirates out of the polls with a 20-10 victory in Philadelphia. McNeill said his team has looked forward to the upcoming game, rather than focusing on last year’s loss.

“They beat us last year. It wasn’t luck. They did a good job. I talk about getting better. Let’s play our best game our next game,” McNeill said. “Temple has a great team and proposes a great opportunity, but a challenge for us. I talk more about preparation.”