Defense on the spot against Duke

The wait is over; and none to soon for East Carolina Pirate fans still smarting from ECU's embarrassing collapse in last year's GMAC Bowl.

In that debacle, the Pirates blew what seemed an insurmountable 38-8 halftime lead, only to lose in double overtime to the Marshall University led by their Heisman candidate quarterback Byron Leftwich.

East Carolina's second half defensive collapse against the Thundering Herd was a common occurrence in 2001. Last year they allowed 296 points (26.9 per game). Heading into Saturday's season opener at Duke, defense is undoubtedly an area of prime concern for the Pirates.

Much of the criticism leveled against the ECU "D" last year was squarely placed on the shoulders of the defensive backs. New faces in those positions are expected to give the Pirates much needed speed.

When the subject turns new talent in the Pirates' defensive backfield for 2002, ECU head coach Steve Logan likes to tout newcomer and fellow Oklahoman Richard Moton. The transfer from Northeastern Oklahoma A&M will see plenty of playing time at the free safety position. Says Logan, "I've really been tickled with that youngster. He's an Oklahoma high school football product. He's a tough guy. He gets it."

This week's opponent, Duke, may be the ideal team for the Pirates to break in new talent on defense. Whether their starter is Adam Smith or Chris Dapolito, an inexperienced quarterback will run the Blue Devils' offense. Smith was Bryant's main backup last season, completing 5-of-13 passes for 30 yards and one interception. He did complete all four of his attempts against Florida State. In the Blue Devils' spring scrimmage, Smith was 12-of-17 for 154 yards and three scores. Dapolito, who did not play last year after sitting out for transferring from Rutgers, has not seen any game action in his collegiate career. He was 9-of-14 for 92 yards in that same scrimmage.

With such little experience at QB, it is anticipated that early on the Blue Devils will rely heavily on an experienced offensive line and running backs Chris Douglas and Alex Wade to carry the major portion of the offensive load. Wade and Douglas, give the Blue Devils arguably the most reliable one-two punch at running back in the ACC. Douglas led the league in all-purpose yardage last season and scored seven touchdowns; Wade found the end zone four times in a reserve role.

It can be assumed that East Carolina defensive coordinator Tim Rose will focus his unit's efforts on shutting down Duke's running game and try and make the Blue Devils try their luck in the air. In that regard, history is on ECU's side. In the teams' last two matchups — in 1999 and 2000 — Duke mustered just 76 rushing yards on 54 attempts.

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