When the Pirate offense opened the game with seven straight punts, the defense kept them in the game. When ECU needed to put Southern Miss away for good, it was the defense that proved to be the dagger. When all was said and done, the Pirates left Hattiesburg with a 24-14 win, and much-needed confidence for the season ahead.
It was good to see a turnover-free offense
Throughout all of the 2011 season, and the first two games of 2012, turnovers plagued ECU’s offense. In Shane Carden’s first career start, it was a pleasant surprise to see the offense complete the whole game without giving the ball to the other team.
Carden was efficient, going 13-27 for 171 yards and a touchdown. The team ran the ball 33 times. The offense was balanced and managed the clock impressively. Though sluggish at times, the unit remained poised. The old adage is the team with fewer turnovers wins the game, and that held true in this match up.
Special teams’ play is the key...again
The game started off dreadfully slow for ECU’s offense, which went three-and-out on five of the team’s first seven drives. When yards were hard to come by, the special teams’ role became increasingly important.
Punter Trent Tignor finished the game with 10 punts for an average of 42.2 yards, three of which were downed within the opponent’s twenty-yard line. He continues to be a huge factor for the Pirates when it comes to field position.
Warren Harvey put ECU’s first points on the board with a 54-yard field goal, which seemed to spark the offense into productivity. But what is most important is that the long field goal had to improve Harvey’s confidence. Harvey is still just 2-6 on the season and could use a pick-me-up.
ECU’s Linebacking group is no joke
Every Pirate fan knows that Jeremy Grove is a dominant linebacker. But with team’s game planning against him, I have been thoroughly impressed with the other linebacker’s ability to step up.
Against Southern Miss, redshirt freshman Montese Overton led the team with 10 tackles and scored on a 16-yard fumble return for a touchdown. Overton has 15 tackles, a sack, and the fumble recovery for a TD in just two games played.
Junior Kyle Tudor has 19 tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in the Pirates’ first three games.
Add that to Grove’s team-leading 22 tackles and two forced fumbles and this young unit is sound from top to bottom. They proved that against Southern Miss.
Conference USA: Anyone’s for the taking
But, if there was one thing I took from this game, it was that Conference USA is wide open this year. ECU’s win over last year’s conference champion puts the Pirates atop the East division.
In its entirety, the conference has five teams still looking for their first win. Just three of the 12 teams, including ECU, have a winning record.
Though the conference play has yet to get underway for most teams, ECU’s away game against UCF is a matchup that could decide the Conference USA East division.