ARTICLE OF THE DAY

Score One (or Two) for the Defense
by Brian North
9/19/06

The Pirates defense has been producing turnovers at an alarming rate. ECU leads the nation in take-aways with 11 in three games. But the Pirates offense was unable to capitalize in the first two games and could never convert them into points. So Skip Holtz said he had seen enough, or actually he had not seen much at all. So the head coach implored for his "D" to take care of business themselves. And boy did they.

The Pirates defenders picked off five passes against Memphis and scored twice. Little known defensive end Zach Slate immediately became part of Pirate lore when he tipped a screen pass to himself and scored from seven yards out in the fourth quarter to give ECU a lead over the Tigers they would never relinquish. The redshirt sophomore from Melbourne, Florida had seven career tackles before his improbable trip to the endzone, and he symbolized the coming out party for several callow Pirates who are starting to make an impact. The score was ECU's first pick-six in 26 games (Erode Jean was the last to turn to score off an INT back in 2003 against Southern Miss), and was first defensive score since Holtz took over (Chris Moore fell on a fumble against NC State in Charlotte in a 52-14 loss which was John Thompson's last game).

But the "D" wasn't done. Senior cornerback Kasey Ross returned another interception 77 yards for an insurance touchdown. Even the offense finally took advantage of the defense's hard work. After failing to convert the first seven turnovers into points, the "O" finally scored two TD's off of picks (Kris Johnson's score after Quentin Cotton's INT, and Aundrae Allison's touchdown catch after Pierre Parker's deflected pick).

The Pirates will have to force more turnovers if they want to beat fourth ranked West Virginia. The Mountaineers don't give up the pigskin very easily. They have yet to thrown an interception and have only lost one fumble in three games. In fact WVU is averaging 46 points per game thanks to almost 350 yards per game on the ground, so ECU's young defense will have its hands full trying to stop the 'Neers and force more of those valuable turnovers that can lead to big upsets.
 
Brian North
bnorth@wcti12.com