5 Keys That Could Unlock a Big Win at ECU

Matt Rhule has some good ideas on getting his team to relax.

The odds makers who reside in Las Vegas have made East Carolina University a favorite over the visiting Temple Owls (tomorrow night, 7 p.m., ESPN2) and the reasons are mostly because Temple (6-0) is coming off a short week with a big game coming up in Notre Dame and the Pirates are a very good home team. There are a couple of things wrong with that thinking, though. ECU (4-3) is also coming off a short week and, while it is a good home team, Temple showed enough grit to survive a similar road test at Cincinnati earlier this season. Also, the Owls are wise enough to know that Notre Dame, while big, is nowhere near as important as the ECU game is to them. The matchups also seem to be in Temple’s favor as ECU is weak against the run and Temple has proven to be a formidable rushing team. The game is played on the field, though, not in Las Vegas, and if the Owls do these five things, they should be just fine.


  1. Commit to the Run

ECU gives up 188 yards per game on the ground. The Owls have not seen that kind of porous run-stopping since UMass. Mark Whipple had a good game plan against the Owls, stacking the box with eight. Instead of check-mating that with two tight ends and a fullback, the Owls played into Whipple’s hands by throwing the ball 48 times. They got away from their identity and threw a couple of costly picks that allowed an inferior team to hang around for three hours. They must stay within themselves, throwing the ball 20-30 times. If they have to, they must put more helmets on ECU helmets and knock them back off the ball.


  1. Rush the Passer

The Pirates employ two quarterbacks, one a passer and one a runner. The Owls need to blitz the passer and contain their lanes on the runner.  James Summers (No. 11) is the runner. Fellow junior Blake Kemp is the passer. Kemp has a problem with turnovers and, if the Owls treat him with the same respect they treated Christian Hackenberg with (none), they should be able to force a couple of turnovers. The old saying in football is that when you have two quarterbacks you have none and the Owls need to show why that saying is true.

  1. Block a Punt

This was Sam Benjamin’s specialty last season. No. 10 blocked two punts in the UCF game a year ago and one in the Charlotte game this season. Now, Adonis Jennings has joined the punt-blocking party, using his length and athleticism to block a punt against UCF last week. With Benjamin coming from the side and Jennings from the middle, blocking a punt would take pressure off a return game which has been shaky the last couple of weeks.


  1. Play-Action Passing

When P.J. Walker throws 20-30 passes (and not the 48 he threw against UMass), the Owls can have an explosive downfield passing game. They must rip the “out” pattern—the one that went for a Pick 6 against UCF—out of the playbook, though. Once they get Jahad Thomas going in the run game, faking it to Thomas should find receivers like Jennings, Robby Anderson, Ventell Bryant and John Christopher finding open seams over the middle.

  1. Protect the Ball

Easy to say, hard to do, but head coach Matt Rhule hit on it in his Tuesday press conference when he said the ball is going to come free on things like a bad snap or bad bounce but just fall on it and do not try to pick it up. Falling on it allows the offense—with its impressive arsenal of offensive weapons—to live another day. If the Owls protect the ball, they will likely live a day at 7-0—which would be their first-ever day with that record.

As Rhule says, just go play.


20 thoughts on “5 Keys That Could Unlock a Big Win at ECU

  1. As always, I think your keys are right on. Keep up the good work.

  2. Nothing wrong with that out pattern. The tight end was wide open in the flat and the QB just made a really bad throw. Keep it in the playbook we have had success with it in the past.

  3. sometimes i feel like part of the game is luck. blocking a punt seems to be less about skill and more about luck.

    although if the same team and same players keep doing it maybe it’s a skill that can pop its head up.

    I just don’t know if a team can count on a blocked punt, especially if its the number 2 key.

    nice points, btw.

    are you sure you think they should take that delayed, PA, roll out pass out of the playbook? Are you sure its an out pass??

    Looking forward to this game. all the talking is done, now its (almost) game time

    • Not counting on it, but if you rush 10 and not the normal 9 … with our athletes, the chances of it happening increase. Plus, Benjamin seems to have a knack for being good at it.

      • you certainly called the blocked punt. Im looking up who benjamin is. I can’t find him on any depth chart

      • i found benjamin. haven’t heard his name much. Guys he’s a veteran special teamer. Im looking up his stats, and don’t expect to see him with many catches. I wish the team had snap counts.

  4. I’m glad to know this blog isn’t looking past ECU like ABC seems to be by already announcing the Notre Dame game as their national game of the week on Halloween. Hopefully the players are as focused on the task at hand. This is classic trap game stuff here. On the road against a team that is likely better than their record. I know they have three losses but as usual they challenged themselves in the non-conference and nearly beat both Florida and BYU on the road. Maybe I’m just not used to having nice things yet and am being overly worried.

    Great write up as usual. As is the case in most football games, I see this as a line of scrimmage game. If Temple can control the line of scrimmage on defense by getting to the QB and establish a run game on offense (which shouldn’t be hard considering ECU’s run defense), Temple should come out with a win.

    • I don’t think any of the kids are looking ahead to Notre Dame. If anything, they are making this game too big. Put it this way: Penn State is better across the board than this team is and all we have to do is assert ourselves physically like we did that day.

  5. Hey Mike. Can’t tell you how great it is to see you covering such a great year for Temple. As a fan and blogger you’ve been the model of faith and perseverance. Good on ya. As for this game, I can also tell you Dowdy–Ficklen Stadium on the ECU campus can be a tough place to play. Great fan support there. Being on a Thursday night it will be hard from them to fill it. It’s tough for alums and tailgating fans. Couple of years ago I was there to watch my nephew play for Old Dominion. The place can rock. There is no doubt that Temple is the better, more physical team. But there’s a reason why ECU is such a good home team.

    • thanks, tom. i would be a “little” more worried if I did not see the Owls take care of business at a packed Nippert Stadium. I think Cincy is every bit as good as ECU, maybe better. Owls went up, 34-12, on the first play of the 4th quarter in that game and went to a prevent defense. Phil Snow took full blame and promised that will not happen again and, if the Owls get into a similar situation, they will put the peddle to the metal.

  6. i’m starting to get a little worried about PJ. I don’t see the Junior year progression that we were expecting. not sure if he’s just a “game manager” type of QB. his freshmen numbers had me thinking he could be a “star”. we are 6 games and the offensive line had held up and he has weapons to throw too. that int last week was horrible.

    i’m not saying he’s been bad buck that’s not the case but i just have not seen an improvement that u hope to see in his Junior year.

    • PJ has only thrown 3 interceptions all year, which is good. However, you are correct, as of now, he is a game manager. He still has the rest of this year and another year.

  7. Any game manager who manages 6-0 is OK with me. I hope he manages us to 7-0.

  8. East Carolina isn’t that bad against the run. That stat is inflated because they gave up 405 on the ground to a good Navy team, this was one week after a close loss to a great Florida team on the road, going back on the road. ECU only gave up 4.5 YPC to Florida & less than 4 YPC vs a good BYU team on the road. Temple has Notre Dame on deck; possible look ahead spot. ECU needs this game more. WIll win 31-20. Temple also gave up 500 yards to Cincinnati & was outgained by 300 yards to ECU last year. A game where ECU fumbled 8 times (lost 5) and committed 12 penalties for 116 yards in the rain. Revenge spot, as well. Tough task for Temple. Best of luck…

  9. the ECU game scares me..,, all the bad karma is hanging over this game: ECU plays well at home in front large and loud crowds; they remember when took their national ranking away last year; Temple has not played a better game than the first game of the season against PSU; usually a team makes small but significant progress during the season but the first game was our best effort and we have not made measurable improvement or matched the intensity level since; Robby Anderson does not look like half the player he was two years ago; our pass rush needs to step up against these ECU QBs; and I know some guys on the team are thinking about ND because everyone is asking them for tIckets

    • I keep waiting for Robby to break out. Rhule hit on it when he said his number had to be called a lot in 2013, not as much now. He does make the plays (tipped catch vs. Tulane; great catch in traffic vs. PSU, Cincy touchdowns, etc.) when his number is called. Like to see them go over the top to him tonight.

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