Keys To Victory: ECU-UAB

East Carolina hosts UAB for the Pirates' last home game of the season. Here are each team's keys to victory.

ECU

1. Let the passing game loose: Last week against Tulsa, quarterback Shane Carden threw for 384 yards en route to a 58-24 win. Carden found his usual targets like Justin Hardy and Isaiah Jones, but has also been incorporating running back Vintavious Cooper into the pass game. On average, the Blazers allow over 40 points per game, so no aspect about their defense stands out too much. Now look at ECU's passing game, which is averaging over 340 yards a game and is ranked ninth in the nation. That said, it's reasonable to expect Carden to drive the offense in the air again.

2. Rush defense: ECU's rush defense has been one of the most impressive things to come out of this season. Last week, Tulsa's Trey Watts did what no one else has this season—rushed for over 100 yards against ECU's rush defense. This week, the Pirates face a formidable running game in UAB. The duo of Darrin Reaves and Jordan Howard combine for 1,549 yards and 10 touchdowns. The Pirates need to shut them down to keep UAB's offense under wraps.

3. Third down defense: Against Tulsa, ECU struggled with third down defense in the first quarter. It's no coincidence that once the Pirates were able to hold Tulsa on third down, they started to run away with the game. Should the Pirates be able to hold UAB on third downs and stall their offense, they'd be in a great position to leave Dowdy-Ficklen Stadium with a win.

UAB

1. Run the ball: One of the only things about the Blazers' offense that particularly stands out is their ability to run the ball. If Reaves and Howard can take off and beat ECU's rush defense, UAB will be in a much better position to upset the Pirates. ECU is going to score plenty, so UAB needs a way to keep up on the scoreboard. Marshall was the same way last week. The Thundering Herd put up 56 points on UAB. While the Blazers only notched two touchdowns, both were run in by Reaves. If Reaves and Howard can't drive UAB's offense, there's not a very good chance the Blazers walk out with a win.

2. Minimize turnovers: UAB fumbled the ball twice against Marshall. Even more importantly, Marshall scored touchdowns following each turnover. Just like the Thundering Herd, ECU isn't going to let those opportunities go. The Pirates have forced turnovers in every game this season, which has been a major reason for their success. UAB's defense can only do so much to slow down Carden and ECU's offense, so it's important that the Blazers not present ECU with any more scoring opportunities.

3. Manage the clock: While the 34-13 score wouldn't show it, the Pirates struggled quite a bit against Florida International a few weeks ago. Playing on the road in a quiet stadium didn't help ECU, but the major problem was FIU's clock management. ECU's defense was on the field for 40 minutes of the game. If UAB can manage the clock well and wear out ECU's defense, the Blazers may be able to claim a third Conference-USA win. Moreover, controlling the clock will help to keep the ball away from ECU's offense, which goes back to minimizing how many scoring opportunities the Pirates get.


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