Keys To Victory: ECU versus UNC

East Carolina hits the road for the first time this season. The Pirates will travel to Chapel Hill, N.C. for the next installment of their rivalry with the North Carolina Tar Heels.

ECU

1. Protect Carden: Virginia Tech notched eight sacks on Shane Carden two weeks ago. North Carolina's defense isn't quite as lethal as Virginia Tech's, but the offensive line still has a tall task of keeping Carden upright. In last year's contest, the Tar Heels sacked Carden seven times. Granted, that was only his second start with the Pirates. If the offensive line can hold off UNC's tacklers better than they did Virginia Tech's, Carden will be better able to connect with the likes of Justin Hardy, Davon Grayson and Danny Webster.

2. Secondary coverage: Don't let UNC's 1-2 record deceive you. The Tar Heels have been lethal in the air this season. Bryn Renner has already thrown for 751 yards through the first three games of the season. Possibly one of the toughest challenges the Pirates will face is containing tight end Eric Ebron, who is averaging over 15 yards per catch. In addition, the Tar Heels are returning the wide receiver duo of Quinshad Davis and Sean Tapley. Last season, the two of them combined for over 1,000 receiving yards and haven't shown any signs of slowing down this year. Covering UNC's passing game is crucial to making sure the Tar Heels don't run away with the game.

3. Make use of the running game: Another glaring flaw from ECU's loss to the Hokies was the Pirates' inability to sustain the run game. Vintavious Cooper, Cory Hunter and Carden ran the ball some in the first half. However, as the game progressed, offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley began to lean more on passing. Cooper, who rushed for over 1,000 yards last season, only had two carries in the second half. The Pirates haven't had too many problems establishing themselves as a threat in the air, but they've hardly been able to consistently maintain status as a threat on the ground. Against a team like UNC, ECU needs to be a multi-faceted offense throughout the game.

UNC

1. Limit Carden: Virginia Tech proved the key to containing ECU is containing Shane Carden. As the game progressed, the Hokies overcame ECU's offensive line and put more and more pressure on Carden. Despite Carden's inability to use his arm to get the ball down field in the second half, the Pirates continued to go with a very pass-heavy game plan. Even though the Tar Heels don't have a defense as threatening as Virginia Tech's, ECU hasn't shown the ability to incorporate its rushing weapons effectively this season. That said, containing the passing game could effectively shut down the Pirates' offense if they continue to be unable to adapt.

2. Maintain offensive tempo: UNC looked great in the first half against Georgia Tech. The Tar Heels took a 13-0 lead into the second half and almost went into halftime with a 20-7 lead, but Georgia Tech rallied and scored with 30 seconds left to make it 20-14. UNC was unable to regain the momentum they carried through most of the first half and was held scoreless in the second. The ECU vs. UNC series has had some lopsided scores in UNC's favor in recent years, but it would be ill advised to slow the tempo in the second half against this ECU squad.

3. Stay balanced: No one doubts Renner's ability to throw the ball or the talents of his targets. Just like ECU, though, the one dimensional nature of UNC's offense has been a major weakness this season. The Tar Heels have two great running backs in A.J. Blue and Romar Morris, who combined for over 1,100 rushing yards in 2012. ECU's secondary has consistently improved and should be a challenge to UNC's passing game. Utilizing every weapon and making their offense less one dimensional is key to UNC overcoming ECU's defense.


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