1. Contain Jordan Parker: If the Pirates can contain tailback Jordan Parker, they can contain Middle Tennessee’s running game. On the ground, Parker has been averaging 96 yards per game and has tallied four touchdowns. Parker alone is a tall task for ECU’s fifth-ranked rush defense. If ECU can hold Middle Tennessee’s running game like it did UNC’s, the Pirates should leave Murfreesboro with a second Conference-USA win under their belt.
2. Continue utilizing all offensive weapons: Every game has seen another Pirate step up and make an impact. True freshmen Davon Grayson and Isaiah Jones proved early on in the season they’re a threat in the air. Against UNC, Lance Ray delivered an amazing performance with two touchdowns and his special teams duties. From start to finish, quarterback Shane Carden completed passes to 12 different receivers against UNC. On the ground, Vintavious Cooper seemed to return to his old form last weekend with 196 rushing yards. Throw in running backs Chris Hairston and Breon Allen and ECU’s offense looks stacked full of versatile weapons.
3. Have the secondary take advantage of Logan Kilgore: Senior quarterback Logan Kilgore hasn’t had a good season so far. In five games, he’s only tallied five touchdowns, but he’s thrown six picks. The secondary’s ability to force and capitalize on turnovers could be a difference maker.
1. Logan Kilgore needs to rise to the occasion: If the Blue Raiders hope to take down ECU, they need Kilgore to take control of the game. He’s shown he’s capable of throwing the ball and has plenty of targets down field. Tavarres Jefferson leads the Blue Raiders in receiving with 279 yards on 22 receptions. Kilgore will also look for Kyle Griswould, who has amassed 134 yards and two touchdowns. If Kilgore can’t find his groove and get the ball moving, Middle Tennessee will struggle to keep up with ECU on the scoreboard.
2. Have Jordan Parker establish the run game early on: Parker is arguably the best weapon Middle Tennessee has. Throw in the likes of Reggie Whatley and William Pratcher and the Blue Raiders have assembled a formidable rushing corps. The three of them have combined for over 850 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Just like with the passing game, being able to utilize ground weapons to move the ball down field is going to be vital. ECU’s rush defense won’t give up yards easily, though. With each game, the Pirates have gotten better and better at stopping the run.
3. Pressure Shane Carden: After his six touchdown performance last week, keeping pressure on Carden has never been a more vital key to victory. Virginia Tech was able to leave Greenville with a win because of their defense’s ability to contain Carden. ECU’s offensive line made a remarkable turnaround against UNC—allowing Carden to throw for 376 yards and three touchdowns, in addition to his three one-yard rushing scores. If Middle Tennessee’s front seven can overcome ECU’s offensive line and force Carden to make mistakes like the Hokies did, they’d stop the Pirates from piling on the points.