Practice Update: Getting Even

The Pirates kept their Conference Championship hopes alive beating Tulane this past weekend. Now they ready themselves a great match-up in Marshall. Last year, the Herd beat the Pirates in the season finale to knock them out of bowl contention. Inside ECU Sports caught up with some players and defensive line coach Marc Yellock to talk about the the interesting rematch.

Coach Yellock's D-line dominant

The Pirate defensive line had a great outing against Tulane holding them to only nine net rushing yards. This turned the Green Wave into a one dimensional team and allowed the Pirates to get get pressure. I asked defensive line Coach Marc Yellock how his line was able to be so successful.

"In practice last week we really worked on our technique," Yellock said. "We had a game plan coming into the game on how to attack their protection and the kids executed it well."

This week the defensive line will have to show up big and get pressure on Marshall's star quarterback Rakeem Cato. Last year Cato went 23 for 29 passing for 341 yards and two touchdowns leading his team to overtime win over the Pirates. Coach Yellock had this to say about Cato.

"He's a great player who can beat you with his arm or feet; what we have to do is get good pressure and keep him in the cage so to speak, containing him is a key to our success this week."

With the Thanksgiving Holiday the Pirates have a short week of practice. They play Marshall at Dowdy-Ficklen on Friday afternoon as opposed to the regular Saturday scheduling. Limited rest can affect teams negatively, so I asked coach Yellock how he plans on preparing his unit.

"We're going to prepare like it's any other week," Yellock said. "As a defensive line we'll work on our technique and on things that we can control along with studying what they do so we can come out fast Saturday."

Bodenheimer seals the victory for the Pirates

After my interview with him last week, I wished senior wide receiver Andrew Bodenheimer good luck and told him to go out there and pull in a touchdown. Bodenheimer went above and beyond catching what would be the game winning touchdown and recovering the onside kick by Tulane to put the game out of reach. I asked Bodenheimer how it felt.

"It feels great to do my part for the team when my number was called; Shane gave me an opportunity to make a play and Coach Dougherty had us prepared for that onside kick, it feels awesome to be a part of a win like that."

Thirty one, that's the current number of games in which Bodenheimer has caught at least one or more passes for the Pirates; the most of any active player on the current roster. This stat is even more impressive considering the fact that Bodenheimer came here as a walk-on. It's safe to say that he is no stranger to consistency and was confident in his work ethic since high school. I asked Bodenheimer what the journey has been like and how he has been able to stay so consistent.

"It's been a lot of hard work and dedication," Bodenheimer responded. "Even when it seems like things are going good it's important to remember where you came from; that's something I've tried to never lose sight of by trying to be accountable every day and working hard."

Being a senior, Bodenheimer has played against Marshall three times. Wins in this match-up are hard to come by for both teams and fans can expect this year to be no exception. I asked Bodenheimer what he expects to see this Saturday. He responded, "Marshall is a good team and we always have a tough game against them; it's a rivalry that not many people talk about, we owe them after last year and that's something we're going to be thinking about come Saturday."

Paulk keeps the tackles coming

Leonard Paulk has waited patiently to earn his starting role for the Pirates. Since earning the job this year he hasn't look back and has been one of the key components to the defense. Before this season Paulk patiently waited behind three year All-Conference USA defensive back Emanuel Davis. I asked him how playing behind Davis helped his development.

"I learned a lot from him," Paulk responded. "He was an All-American and had an opportunity to go to the league so he taught me a lot of stuff; I've been trying to take all of what I learned to the next level this season."

With their win against Tulane the Pirates earned their first winning season under Coach Ruffin McNeil. They look to keep the winning coming in a quick turnaround game with conference opponent Marshall. The team wants this win and all players or fans who saw the game last year can understand why. Paulk had this to say about the game, "A win this week is something we want badly as a team; finishing 7-1 in conference would be the best record we've had since I've been here and it's something we want for Coach Ruff and the Pirate Nation."

With that being said, it's not going to be easy. I asked Paulk how they plan on getting the win. "It's going to be a hard fought game," Paulk responded. "We'll have to work hard in this short week of practice and have to come out Friday remembering our assignments in order to get this win."

Bullock says this game is personal

The game last week was a must win for the Pirates and they got it done. This team has proved itself in conference and earned tough wins all season; I asked running back Reggie Bullock what this win in particular showed the team.

Bullock responded, "It shows that we can respond as a team when faced with adversity; it also shows that we're still in it for the conference championship which has been a goal of ours all season long."

To reach their goal, the Pirates have to win this weekend and pray for a UCF loss to UAB. Marshall needs a win against the Pirates in order to earn bowl eligibility; the same situation that the Herd shot down in the season finale last year at their home field. I asked Bullock how last year's results are going to play a role in the team's preparation.

"We know what they did to us last year," Bullock said. "We're working hard so we can do the same thing to them this year in front of the Pirate Nation; this game is personal and we're going to be ready come Friday."

Final Thoughts

Coming into the season, if the Pirates were told they would get a chance at payback for their loss at Marshall ending their season and hopes of a bowl bid last year; and that game be played in Dowdy-Ficklen. I'd imagine the team would team accept the challenge and it seems as though they have. The game this Friday is the last regular season home game for seniors Bodenheimer, Paulk, and Bullock and all three of their interviews show pirate fans they can expect all of them to leave it on the field in hopes of another big conference win.. It's going to be a high flying game from Dowdy-Ficklen this Black Friday with a lot of emotion out of both teams. Kickoff is at 2 p.m.

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