Make or Break Time for the Pirates

by Billy Weaver

There always seems to be one game on the schedule that has the ability to define a season. This year's defining game could take place Saturday at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium as East Carolina plays host to Rice.

Why is this possibly THE defining game of the season?

Win this game, as you should, and all of sudden you're 2-3, 1-1 in the conference and right back into the mix of things heading into a relatively easy part of the schedule. And not to mention, the players start to believe in themselves! That's crucial.

Lose, and not only do you fall to a dismal 1-4 having once again helped an opposing team snap one of the nation's longest current losing streaks, you lose the casual fan for the rest of the season and the Pirate Nation begins to start questioning everything surrounding the program. Even, as ridiculous as it sounds, the hiring of head coach Skip Holtz.

But before you start to jump off the Pirate Ship, take a look at what's ahead for ECU this weekend. The Pirates will face what I like to call "Army West." The Rice Owls run a very similar offense to what the Army Black Knights used to run. A run-oriented triple option wishbone attack. ECU is a perfect 8-0 lifetime against the Black Knights and for good reason. The triple option wishbone is only effective when you play ahead on the scoreboard. If a team like Rice trails by more than two touchdowns at any point in the football game it's lights out. Their style of
offense is very slow and methodical and is intended to wear down an opposing defense. When they are forced to throw the football they are far less effective.

Take a look at the Rice Owls in the national statistics (out of 117 Division One teams)

- 107th in total offense.
- 116th in passing offense at 86.7 yards per game.
- 30th in rushing offense at 189.67 yards per game.
- 96th in scoring at 19 points per game.
- 117th (dead last) in total defense giving up 522.33 yards per game.
- 116th in rushing defense.
- 99th in pass defense.

It's not too hard to see what the Pirates need to do to get a win versus Rice. Contain the run! Play assignment football, score a couple of touchdowns and ECU comes away with a victory. It's really that simple.

The Pirates are an early five point favorite to win on Saturday and I think they'll win by at least 14. ECU ran the ball up and down the field against Southern Miss last weekend and at times played very good defense. Five turnovers will beat you every time. So let's add "holding on to the football" as another key to this Saturday's game against Rice.

Don't give up on the Pirates yet. There's still a lot of football left on the schedule and a lot of very winnable games. Starting Saturday against the lowly Owls of Rice.

Go Pirates!

Billy Weaver