Final Thoughts vs. UNC

The Pirates offense continued to struggle this Saturday, this time against in-state rival North Carolina. ECU was held out of the end zone for the game's entirety, scoring on two field goal attempts in a 27-6 Tar Heel victory. Though it doesn't necessarily show, the Pirate defense played admirably in the loss but it wasn't enough to bail out the offense.

Where's the air raid?

For Shane Carden's second consecutive start at quarterback, he has failed to produce the needed yardage to fuel an air raid offense. Against UNC, he finished 17 for 30 with 124 yards. Carden threw for more yards than that in the second half of the South Carolina game alone.

Carden is failing to stretch the field on offense, and it is limiting the productivity of Lincoln Riley's supposed high-scoring offense. Though he has cut down the team's turnovers since taking over the starting role, Carden has also not taken nearly as many shots down field, and it shows in the statistics.

Through three games of extended game action, he has yet to total 200 or more yards passing.

Running by committee favors Cooper

The most exciting play of the game for the Pirates came when their back was against their own end zone. On third and 30, the chances were not in ECU's favor. Just throw it long and see if one of our guys can catch it right? Wrong. The Pirates ran a draw play to Vintavious Cooper who took off 36 yards for an impressive first down. Though the drive ended with no points, it did showcase Cooper's ability to run under pressure.

Every game this season has seen at least four running backs carry the ball in different scenarios. Cooper has continued to stand out as a guy that deserves more carries. If the Pirates were to cut down to just one or two running backs to get them into a groove, they should take a close look at this guy. He shows flashes of being a real threat for a unit that has yet to produce a rushing touchdown this season (both of ECU's rushing touchdowns were scored by quarterbacks).

From here on out, the Pirates need to show up

There have been fans that scoff at ECU's decision to schedule strong out of conference play. But these two losses have not done much in terms of determining the Pirates' season. Sure, ECU won't go to a national title. But the chance of winning the Conference USA is still very much alive. In fact, most would say it's pretty favorable that the Pirates have a legit shot.

Starting next week against UTEP, ECU gets into the thick of its conference schedule. Now, more than any other point in the season, these games matter. This is the point in the season where teams stake their claim. Starting next week, the Pirates can grab the conference by the throat and never let any other team get a chance to take over.

It starts right now. This is where the Pirates prove what kind of team they want to be in 2012.

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