UCF vs ECU: Game Preview

Our first look at the UCF's home matchup against East Carolina.

ECU Pirates vs. UCF Knights
Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 8 pm EST
Bright House Networks Stadium Orlando, FL

UCF 2-5, ECU 4-3

Last week: UCF's second half meltdown led to a 49-19 loss at Tulsa; Trailing at half, ECU scored 23 unanswered points to defeat Memphis, 30-10.

ECU's offense- 76th overall (342.1 ypg., 66th passing- 210 ypg., 73rd rushing-132.1 ypg.) 63rd scoring- 25.3 ppg. Vs. UCF defense-48th overall (338.3 ypg., 85th passing -230.0 ypg., 24th rushing- 108.3 ypg.) 73rd scoring-26.7 ppg.

UCF's defense will get a bit of breather this week after going up against the best offense in the nation at Tulsa. ECU uses a variety of looks on offense and will likely rotate quarterbacks in and out of the game.

Either Patrick Pinkney or Robert Kass could get the starting nod, but the Knights will surely see both of them. Pinkney will probably start off the game, as he is a versatile run/pass option at quarterback who has accumulated over 1,200 yards passing this season with 7 touchdowns to three picks. He also has 172 yards rushing, proving that he can certainly be dangerous when leaving the pocket. Kass, a Lake Highland Prep. (Fla.) product, has struggled this year, throwing just one TD to two INTs and totaling 223 yards through the air.

ECU has somewhat missed dynamic running back Chris Johnson (1st round pick by the Tennessee Titans) and have used a by committee approach to replace him. Norman Whitley earned his first career start last week against Memphis and ran for 64 yards on 15 carries and a touchdown. Whitley is a quick back with great change-of-direction ability and is seeing more and more playing time as a sophomore. Behind him is the bruising Brandon Simmons, who has gained 230 yards. Simmons is a big back (6'1", 223 lbs.) who does most of his damage battering through the heart of defenses.

Joe Burnett and Johnell Neal will have their hands full with Dwayne Harris, ECU's ‘Mr. Everything.' Harris has accumulated over 1,000 total yards this season as a returner, receiver and runner. The 6'0'', 200 lbs receiver is averaging 6.43 receptions per game and has 562 receiving yards on the year. While Harris hasn't attempted any passes this season, he played quarterback in high school and has the ability to throw the ball as well.

Best offensive matchup for ECU: Dwayne Harris vs. Johnell Neal- Neal is pound for pound one of the toughest players you'll ever see, but will he have the athleticism to stay with Harris, who has been excellent throughout the season?

Best defensive matchup for UCF: Torell Troup vs. ECU's offensive line- Expect the Pirates to double Troup. ECU would love to get the running game going but it will be tough for any offensive lineman to handle the 320 lb. Troup.

UCF offense- 119th overall (248.3 ypg., 111th passing- 121.7 ypg., 83rd rushing 126.7 ypg.) scoring-111th 17.7 ppg vs. ECU defense- 57th overall (346.4 ypg., 56th passing- 202.1 ypg., 68th rushing- 144.3 ypg.) 55th scoring- 23.6 ppg.

The Knights' offense started progressing last week against an inept Tulsa defense, but fell apart late in the game. UCF did have some bright spots on that side of the ball and will look to build on that versus a very stout ECU defense.

True freshmen Rob Calabrese and Brynn Harvey will likely start in the backfield for UCF. Calabrese has struggled to adjust to the speed of the college game, but is steadily improving each week. Harvey had an impressive 91 yard performance last week over the Golden Hurricane and displayed good quickness and surprising power in the team's loss.

Brian Watters has been getting open and Calabrese has been finding him as of late, as he had 121 receiving yards and two touchdowns against Tulsa.

ECU has one of the best defenses in the conference with Van Eskridge leading the way for the Pirates. The high motor free safety leads the team with 55 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions. He has great speed and good size too, making him a well balanced leader in the secondary.

Upfront, C.J. Wilson can wreak havoc. The 270 lb. defensive end has 36 tackles on the year, with 10.5 coming for a loss and 5.5 being sacks.

Pierre Bell has been a huge playmaker for ECU at the weak side linebacker position. Bell has 49 tackles and the senior backer has the ability to make plays all over the field.

Best offensive matchup for UCF: UCF's receivers vs. ECU's secondary- Statistically, ECU's pass defense is better than its run D, but the Pirates haven't been tested much through the air. If Calabrese can go through his progressions and make the right throws, he will be able to find open receivers.

Best defensive matchup for ECU: C.J Wilson vs. Patrick Brown- Brown can probably handle Wilson, but if the junior end starts stunting or if Calabrese holds the ball too long again, there could be problems.

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