Practice Update: Defense Ready

The Pirate defense started fast against Houston two weeks ago and they look to carry that over into this week's game with conference opponent Tulane. Inside ECU Sports caught up with some impact players to talk about their match-up down in New Orleans this Saturday.

Milner shows brains to go with brawn

Junior defensive end Matt Milner has been named First Team Academic All-District. This is Milner's second academic all-district award of his career which he earned with a perfect 4.0 cumulative grade-point average. I asked Milner what it takes to win this award.

"It's really just about time management," Milner said. "We devote so much time to football that it can be hard at times, but it's really about finding time to get into the books and that's what I've tried to do."

This week the Pirates face Conference USA East Division rival Tulane. A team they beat last year and have gone 8-2 against the last ten times they have played. When I asked Milner the keys to this game he responded, "We need to shut down the run; we know they're really big on passing, so if we stop their run game and make them one dimensional we should be able to take care of our business."

Defensive Coordinator Brian Mitchell calls the shots on the defensive side of the ball. Coach Mitchell has done a great job of getting his defense to respond after they took a bad beating against Navy three weeks ago. I asked Matt what his coach has emphasized for this week against Tulane.

"Practice practice practice," Milner responded. "Coach Mitchell has really emphasized getting ready and preparing the way we know how to so that we can be ready to play come Saturday."

Magazu talks Tulane

It's no secret that Tulane is a heavy passing team; they have put up numbers through the air all season long. Junior defensive back Damon Magazu knows what to expect having played Tulane last year; I asked him how he thinks the defense will fare this weekend in New Orleans.

"I think we'll do pretty well," Magazu said. "We did a great job of reading our keys against Houston, and I think that'll carry over into this game. Having a week to get our legs back under us was important and we should come out strong."

The Pirates had their bye week last week giving them time to rest and prepare for the rest of the season. During a bye week teams generally choose to double prepare for an opponent or really work on their own game, it seems as though the Pirates have tried to balance this.

"We really focused on ourselves a lot last week, realizing problems that we've had in the past focusing on those," Magazu said. "Obviously this week we've had time to work on Tulane and believe we're prepared for what's to come."

Tulane's pungent air attack is led by junior receiver Ryan Grant. Grant leads all Conference USA receivers in yards per game with 94.7. I asked Magazu about Grant's quarterback Ryan Griffin; he had this to say, "He does a good job of spreading the ball around, goes through his reads well, and gets the ball out quick. It's important that our d-line can get a hand in his face to disrupt his timing."

Brooks knows what it takes

Two weeks ago against Houston, the Pirate defense came out and forced the Cougars to punt on their first five possessions. I asked senior nose tackle Michael Brooks whether he thinks they can bring that intensity into this game against the Green Wave.

"For Houston we just went back to technique," Brooks said. "We look to do the same thing against Tulane and hopefully get some of the same looks so we can come out of there with a win."

Tulane's home field is the Mercedes Benz Superdome, most people know it as the home of the New Orleans Saints. It is also going to be the host venue for this year's Super Bowl. Playing in a stadium like this can be nerve racking for some players, I asked Brooks whether he had any pregame jitters; he responded, "No not really, last time I had jitters was when we played South Carolina in Panther's stadium last year; I've played Tulane at their place before so this game is going to be fun."

Brooks had four total tackles and one sack to help the Pirates to a second half shutout and ultimately a 34-13 win over Tulane last season at home. I asked Brooks how important the pass rush will be this week.

"That's something coach has emphasized here in practice," Brooks said. "They're a great passing offense and we believe pressure is the key to slowing them down; overall we need to do what we do, as long as we run hard to the ball and keep our technique we'll be alright."

Final Thoughts

The Pirate defense made a statement with their win against Houston two weeks ago, responding from their big loss to Navy and becoming bowl eligible. Now they look to win out the rest of the season starting this week with Tulane. Tulane's offense will be a good test for the Pirates, but one I see them winning in the end. Kickoff from the Mercedes Benz Superdome is at 3:30 p.m. this Saturday.

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