East Carolina’s defense ranks amongst the nation’s 25 best in terms of total defense. The front seven has been able to pressure the quarterback and get to the ball, but the Pirates only have 13 sacks for 78 yards through eight games—95th in the nation.
For a defense that is holding opponents south of five yards a play, there are very few glaring deficiencies. Improving on getting to the quarterback and taking him down will make it one fewer weakness on defense.
Between the defensive line and the linebackers, ECU’s defense is forcing quarterbacks to make some poor decisions. Now they need to get their hands on the signal caller and bring him down.
“That’s one thing we’re going to work more on in practice,” said nose tackle Terry Williams. “We’ve got a lot of one-on-ones in pass rush sections in practice, so that’s one big thing we’re working on—just finishing our pass rush moves to get to the quarterback.”
Williams is preparing more beforehand to do his best at getting to the quarterback. He’s studying more film than he had earlier in the season to see what works best for him and the rest of the defensive line.
“The past couple games, I haven’t watched as much film. I caught myself doing that, so (before) Temple, I stayed in the film room and watched a lot more film,” said Williams. “I just worked more on focusing in the game and actually working pass rushing.”
Williams continued, “I fell like before I was bull rushing a lot, so I’m trying to work pass rush moves. I’m going to keep that going forward.”
ECU’s defense has been efficient all season. The most points it gave up was the 41 North Carolina notched in its trouncing, which is a bit skewed due to the 14 points the Tar Heels scored on trick plays. The defense would be even more dangerous if it can take down the quarterback.
Despite the lack of sacks, the front seven is keen on continuing what it has been doing all season.
“Same old stuff,” said linebacker Zeek Bigger. “Our front line, they’re very strong…They get the job done. They make it easier if we want to blitz. Most times, we don’t have to blitz because of how fast and strong they are. So, it all depends on the scheme—what we want to do, how we want to react and how we want to attack their offense.”
So, even though the pressure is there up front, the defense does feel a little like they’re leaving the job unfinished. To remedy that, the linemen and linebackers have been focusing on getting past the offensive line to sack the quarterback.
“It’s things we’ve got to work on,” said Bigger, who grouped that problem in with the defense’s struggles to force turnovers. “We’ve got to make sure we get him down. Rally up sacks and get turnovers. It’s things in that game that help the defense. We’re stopping them for short yards and things like that.”
ECU had an open date this past week to work on those deficiencies. The Pirates also had AAC officials on hand to help remedy the penalties that have plagued them on both sides of the ball.