East Carolina is getting a lot of attention as of late and rightfully so. The Pirates have been scorching defenses with a high-octane offense, putting up ridiculous numbers and a whole lot of points on the board.
However, if ECU has high hopes of running the table and claiming The American title in only its first year as a member, it will need to tighten things up on the defensive side of the ball.
There wouldn’t be much concern for this defense had the Pirates beat SMU more convincingly than they had. ECU jumped out to a 21-point lead that quickly dwindled to only 11 in the third quarter when they lead 35-24.
Maybe I am overreacting a bit, but I did feel a little anxiety as the Mustangs starting catching up behind the inspired play of walk-on quarterback Garrett Krstich. Luckily that never happened, but it very well could have and could happen in the future.
Let me remind the fans of ECU of what happened to my beloved BYU Cougars this past weekend. BYU was ranked in the Top 25 at No. 18 and was playing a team in Utah State that it should have beat quite handily. The defense, however, slacked and the Cougars were upset at home.
What’s to say that this doesn’t happen to the Pirates? As I have watched these two teams (ECU and BYU) I have seen a lot of similarities in the two. Both have had great quarterback leadership with a supporting cast of offensive power, and both have stellar defenses that get comfortable with a lead and tend to step off the gas pedal.
ECU had also jumped out to a 21-0 lead on Virginia Tech, but that also dwindled, and we saw the Hokies tie up the game late in the fourth quarter. Luckily for the Pirates, Shane Carden wore his cape and the offense drove the ball down the field with less than two minutes and won the game.
What happens if Carden has to miss time with injury (knock on wood) or is simply ineffective? (We’ve seen the latter before, believe it or not.) What becomes of ECU? Going back to my BYU comparison, that reality came crashing down as its star quarterback Taysom Hill went down late in the first half. BYU’s defense had dug the team into a 14-point deficit that the Cougars were never able to come back from.
ECU gave up a season-high 339 yards in the winning effort against SMU. It was argued last week that SMU is in fact the worst team in football this year. If a team has high aspirations like ECU, it can’t give up that kind of yardage to a team that is arguably one of the worst teams in the nation. There are better teams in the conference (i.e. Central Florida, Memphis, Temple, Cincinnati) that if they put up those type of numbers, the Pirates will fall.
Fortunately for ECU, it travels to Tampa to play a South Florida team that ranks No. 121 in total offense—a good prescription for a defense that has a few kinks that need fixed.