Pirates March into Birmingham to face Blazers

The Pirates are looking to continue its success in Conference USA play and sustain momentum from last week's 41-7 win against Memphis when they go on the road to face the University of Alabama Birmingham Blazers Saturday night.

From a distance, it may be easy to overlook UAB (1-5 overall, 0-2 C-USA). Similar to ECU, the Blazers have been battle-tested, having already faced both South Carolina and Ohio State on the road. In its contest with OSU, UAB jumped out to 9-0 start and only trailed 21-15 in the fourth quarter in route to a respectable 29-15 loss to the then No. 16 ranked Buckeyes.

Garrick McGee is the Blazer's head coach, entering his first year in that role. In 2011, McGee was a finalist for the Broyles award, which is presented to the nation's top assistant coach alongside Bobby Petrino at Arkansas. Redshirt freshman Austin Brown will make his fourth career start at quarterback after junior Jonathan Perry started the first three games. Junior wide receiver Jackie Williams has been a reliable option for the inexperienced quarterback and can be a factor in the return game as well. Sophomore wideout, JaMarcus Nelson leads the team with three touchdown grabs this season.

ECU will be looking to win back to back games for the first time this season on Saturday. The Pirates lead the all-time series 7 games to 4, winning each of the last five meetings between the schools. In the games played at Birmingham, the Blazers have won three of the five meetings. In 2011, ECU turned over the ball six times but still managed to win 28-23 at Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium.

Against Memphis, the Pirates were pass-happy and quarterback Shane Carden was able to pick apart the Tigers' secondary, finishing 25 for 33 passing for a career-high 308 yards and five touchdowns. Subsequently, Carden was named Conference USA's offensive player of the week and his performance.

Don't expect Saturday's contest to be as lopsided as the one that took place last weekend. History has shown that in each of the five meetings between these schools at Legion Field, the game has been decided by ten points or less. According to Las Vegas, the Pirates enter the game as three point favorites.

1.Defense Needs To Step Up : With UAB averaging about 28 points and 400 yards per game offensively, the defense will have its hands full. With a redshirt freshman starting under center, it is important that the Pirates front seven apply pressure and force him into mistakes.

2.Don't give up the big play : ECU secondary has been inconsistent up to this point of the season. Against Memphis, the unit made plays and more importantly didn't give up the big one. It will remain to be seen if they can do the same this weekend against the Blazers, who can throw the ball all over the park, averaging 309 yards per game through the air.

3.Execution and playing mistake free: If the Pirates turn over the ball the way they did in last year's meeting, ECU will not win this game. In its losses in 2012, the Pirates have not taken care of the ball and were not sound in its fundamentals.

ECU cannot defeat themselves on Saturday night, and I don't think they will.

Prediction: ECU-31, UAB-13.

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