ARTICLE OF THE DAY
 
Securing the "Forte"
by Chris Stansbury
11/19/07


At one point in time, the second half of the ECU football schedule was supposed to be the cakewalk.  Seriously, after the brutal five games to open the season, it would have to be easier, right?  What we learned is that cruise control can keep you on track and rolling along smoothly, but if you fall asleep at the wheel, you WILL crash.

The Pirate Nation saw an ugly wreck two weekends ago against a one-win team, Marshall.  Sorry to beleaguer the point, but it bears repeating. 

So, after we fatten ourselves up on Thanksgiving and try to get ready for football once again, I have a HUGE fear.  When we last played, Tulane was also a crumby team with just two wins and should be a sure win, if that exists anymore.  Now Tulane has won two straight, have four wins on the season and they have the best running back in the country. 

That's right, I said Tulane has the best running back in the country.  Matt Forte stomped out 194 yards rushing and FIVE touchdowns in a win Saturday against Rice.  And it was on the road, granted it was at Rice and there may be more people at your Thanksgiving table Thursday than in Rice Stadium, but still.

Forte's latest huge game makes him the first running back to surpass the 2,000 yard mark since Cal's J.J. Arrington did it in 2004.  And it was the second time this season, he has scored five touchdowns in one game, tying his own Conference USA record.  He has rushed over 100 yards three times, over 200 yards three times and over 300 yards twice.  Yes, twice. Reader's Digest version - The kid is really good.

Am I saying Tulane has become LSU or Kansas?  No.  But, the Green Wave will be no cake walk this weekend at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium either. 

Here's the good news-bad news scenario.  During the Skip Holtz era, when ECU faces one of the top rushers in the league or country, our defense has pretty much shut them down.  Look at Steve Slayton, Kevin Smith and Damien Fletcher for a couple recent examples.  That's the good news.  The bad news is that our defense has been somewhat Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde this year. 

The bye week should help us get as healthy as we have been since August, and our defensive downfalls have really come in the passing game.  Tulane has actually thrown 14 less passes as a team than Matt Forte has had carries.

This is the second major turning point in this season.  The first was the Houston football game. If we come back from Houston with a 1-4 record, then this season could have gone to the dumper in a hurry.  Instead we come home 2-3 and win four of the next five games. 

As for this weekend, there is a huge difference to ending this season 7-5, as opposed to 6-6.  Seven wins guarantees a winning season with a chance to win eight games for the first time since 2000.  If not, the door opens to another pizza bowl visit and a possible losing season. 

To me, it is simple.  The ECU coaching staff needs to rally the troops and be ready to secure the "Forte" on Saturday. 
 
Chris Stansbury