Bits and Bytes - ECU

Kicking dominates our final look at Saturday's East Carolina-West Virginia game.

GETTING A KICK OUT OF CONFERENCE USA

For the second straight week, WVU will be facing a Conference USA placekicker with impressive credentials.

Two weeks ago it was Cincinnati booter Jonathan Ruffin, who surprisingly doinked an attempt off the left upright with no time on the clock.

This week, it's East Carolina's Kevin Miller, who has made 19 consecutive field goal attempts from 41 yards or closer.

The last time Miller missed from that range was two years ago at, you guessed it, WVU.

Miller had another string of 14 straight made field goals before missing wide right on a 47-yarder against Tulane two weeks ago. Miller is a two time Lou Groza Award seminfinalist. The Groza Award is presented to the nation's outstanding college kicker.

The kicking game is probably West Virginia's shakiest aspect at the moment. Those areas have to improve, or they will cost the Mountaineers a game somewhere down the line this year.

RED ZONE REACTION

I think that red zone stats, especially the "scoring percentage" stat, is a little bit out of focus.

BlueGoldNews.com
Game Info
WVU 0-0, 2-1
ECU 1-0, 1-2
Sat. 9/28 Noon
Mountaineer Field
Series: WVU 11-2
TV: ESPN Regional
BCS: WVU-45 - ECU-87
Line:WVU -7
Stats & Trends
Most teams provide a percentage of the number of times their team scored while in the red zone -- that is, both touchdowns and field goals.

I think the better statistic to look at is "touchdown percentage in the red zone". Once an offense gets inside the twenty, touchdowns should be the primary goal, not simply getting points on the board.

And a defense, having given up some yardage or being forced onto the field after a turnover, can often get a boost from holding an opponent to three points from close range.

I'm not downplaying the positives of getting some points out of a drive. It's just my opinion that punching the ball into the end zone delivers a lot more benefits than just the three (hopefully four) additional points a TD provides.

With that in mind, let's look at ECU. They have been in the red zone ten times this year and scored on eight of those trips. That's a good ratio. Seven of those eight scores have been TDs. That's very good.

WVU matches East Carolina's overall success rate in the zone, as the Mountaineers have scored 12 times in 15 trips to the zone. Even better, all 12 of those scores have been touchdowns.

ECU's defense has been much better at holding the line in the zone, yielding five TDs and six field goals in 13 opponent forays, while WVU has given up eight touchdowns and one field goal in ten trips.

I'm thinking that red zone defense might play a big part in this week's contest.

RANDOM THOUGHT OF THE WEEK

Why are punters so often the holders for placekickers on field goals?

Click for Morgantown, West Virginia Forecast
Is it because they typically have good hands? Because they have the same mindset, which is sometimes slightly off center? Because they hang out with the kickers anyway, and it's easier to have them hold when the kickers are off doing their own thing?

WVU isn't in the mainstream in these areas -- wide receiver A.J. Nastasi and defensive back George Shehl both hold in front of punter Mark Fazzolari.

Additionally, from my perspective, WVU's kickers are well grounded, and aren't as, well, different, as many kickers are reported to be.

It wasn't always that way, of course. WVU has two hall of fame kickers, from both a performance and a zaniness standpoint, in punter Todd Sauerbrun and placekicker Paul Woodside.

BIG EAST RIFF OF THE WEEK

Credit my friend Steve White for this one. Steve proposes that WVU would be better off not using Big East officials for any of their non-conference games.

You know what? He's probably right. WVU could use that as a negotiating chip when working on contracts for out of conference games.

'Hey, we'll let you use your own officials if you give us $10,000 more on the contract.'

Some teams would probably go for it, and the Mountaineers would be spared the excruciating experience of another game under the control of Big East officials.

Now, if we can just do something about conference games...


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