In the Trenches
by Kevin Monroe

Ask any head coach and he will tell you that football games are won and lost in the trenches.  Through seven games, the Pirates are losing the battle up front in a big way.  East Carolina has rushed for 740 total yards through 7 games for a 105 yard average, but their opponents have amassed 1578 total rushing yards through 7 games for a 225 yard average.  ECU didn’t just become a passing school; it’s been that way for as long as I have been following them (since the 1991 season). 

Since the days of Luke Fisher, Clayton Driver, Pete Zophy, Hunter Gallimore and Jeff Blake they have thrown first and run second.  Junior Smith, the current running back’s coach for the pirates, played during the end of Blake’s career and the beginning of Marcus Crandell’s career and he still managed to become the all-time leading rusher in East Carolina history.  What’s my point?  Well being a pass first offense is no excuse for not being able to run the football.

If it’s the personnel up front, then the personnel issues need to be addressed.  My personal opinion is the offensive line is talented, I just can’t figure out the problem.  I would love to be a fly on the wall in Coach Shankeweiler’s offensive line meeting today; to hear what he thinks the problems are. Is it a lack of effort, a lack of ability, or a bad scheme?  We know Shank is a good coach or he wouldn’t have been hired here on three different occasions.  We know Dominique Lindsay is a good back and we have seen the ability of Chris Johnson over the past two years.  I refuse to believe it’s their fault.

Defensively, I think we are close to stopping the run, but still not as good as we need to be to win a conference title.  The Pirates looked pretty good against DeAngelo Williams most of the game.  The majority of his carries were for short yardage until the 60-yard romp in the third quarter.  The necessary changes have been made up front to make us successful stopping the run with the move of Marcus Hands to the starting lineup and Setzer as well.  Saturday’s injury to Hands could prove to be detrimental to that D-line.

With a 3-4 record, the goal now has to be to get at least 6 victories and earn a bowl birth.  My prediction is the Pirates will get those three victories with wins over UCF Saturday and then on the road at Marshall and at home vs. UAB to finish out the season.  The Tulsa game is winnable but they will be a tough team to beat on the road.  Central Florida this Saturday is a huge game, they are playing well right now and it’s a good thing the Pirates are playing them in Dowdy Ficklen stadium.

Kevin Monroe